Police: Pittsfield man stabbed after argument over lawn clippings

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PITTSFIELD — An ongoing dispute between neighbors devolved into a bloody fight on Tuesday, when one pulled out a pocket knife and the other pulled out a gun.

Joseph Burke, 55, retrieved his "small black gun" and ended the dispute over lawn clippings after Steven Durkee, 59, slashed him twice with the knife, according to police reports filed about the incident.

The incident happened shortly after 4 p.m. on Newton Avenue. Officers with the Pittsfield Police Department determined Burke acted in self-defense, arrested Durkee and charged him with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Burke, who police say has an active license to carry, faces no charges in the incident.

Both men suffered minor injuries in the fight, police said.

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Durkee provided officers with a conflicting account of the incident, saying instead that he stabbed Burke after first being threatened with Burke's gun.

Burke's son, Jacob Burke, told officers that Durkee is not popular in the neighborhood and that he'd previously "poisoned his two dogs, put nails in his driveway, and even put a dead animal in his backyard." So he wasn't surprised to come home on Tuesday to find a pile of grass and leaf clippings on the lawn he'd cleaned the day before, he reportedly told officers.

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The younger Burke said his father confronted Durkee about the lawn clippings and asked him to clean them and that's what started the dispute, according to reports. As they argued, he said Durkee threw himself at his father and slashed him in the face, police said.

Jacob Burke told officers that he stepped in and punched Durkee hard enough to knock him to the ground, records show. Police said Durkee then allegedly stabbed Joseph Burke in the back of the leg, prompting him to pull out his firearm and point it at him.

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Reports point to statements taken from the men involved and from a witness as the basis for "the determination that Durkee was the aggressor."

Another witness also gave officers a cellphone video of part of the incident, police said.

"The footage showed Durkee standing in the middle of the road with blood all over him, and a knife in his right hand," a police report states. "Durkee can be heard in the video stating: `You got a gun pointed at me man.' Joseph can be heard saying: `You f—--in' stabbed me, so I pulled it out! I got a right all day!"

Amanda Drane can be contacted adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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