The Ferris student who was stabbed in his residence hall Sunday, Feb. 23, now faces felony charges of his own for providing false information about the incident, according to police.
Joseph Gabriel Guertler, 20, was arraigned Thursday, Feb. 27, at Mecosta County’s 77th District Court on one count obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He is also charged with one count of falsely reporting a felony, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
Guertler provided false information about the location of the stabbing as well as a false description of an unidentified suspect, according to court documents.
Court documents noted the misinformation caused “an innocent person to become the focus of a criminal investigation and caus[ed] law enforcement to be misused.”
Guertler was reportedly stabbed between 2 and 3 a.m. by Ferris student Ezekial Guillermo Fulgencio, 19.
The incident occurred inside Fulgencio’s room in Brophy Hall. Guertler also lives in Brophy Hall, and according to police, the two students are acquaintances.
“Tempers got the best of people, which resulted in the knife being displayed,” Ferris Department of Public Safety Capt. Jim Cook said. “It ended in the victim getting stabbed.”
The stabbing was initially reported as having occurred at Oakwood Townhouses, an off-campus student housing complex one mile southeast of Ferris State University on 14 Mile Road.
At 6:41 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 23, Ferris students, faculty and staff received an emergency alert via email notifying them of the incident and warning them to be on the lookout for the suspect described as “a Caucasian male with medium-length brown hair and a scruffy and lighter-colored beard.”
Guertler gave false information not only about the location of the incident but also regarding the suspect’s description, according to police. In his mugshot taken after his arrest, Fulgencio has dark hair and is clean shaven.
Guertler’s false description of the suspect led law enforcement to question several other individuals about their possible involvement in the stabbing, Cook said. One individual was arrested during the investigation despite not being connected to the stabbing.
A 19-year-old Ferris student was arrested after police followed a blood trail from a broken fire alarm casing to his Bond Hall room. Police found the student bleeding from his hand and intoxicated. He was ticketed for minor in possession and and malicious destruction of property.
“Based on the amount of blood, we also looked at him as possibly being involved in the stabbing,” Cook said. “We later figured out he wasn’t the suspect when we received more information.”
Other men fitting the suspect’s false description were approached during the investigation, but no others were arrested or charged with any crimes, according to Cook.
Guillermo was taken into custody at approximately 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, and was charged with one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. He was also charged with one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
Due to an ongoing investigation, police have not revealed who provided the information that led to Guillermo’s arrest.
Cook said false information can make an investigation much more difficult.
“You can’t put a price tag on what it really costs chasing down false leads,” he said. “The sheriff’s department had to extend resources when they thought the incident had occurred at Oakwood, and Ferris had to increase its involvement once we learned it happened on campus. When police are tied up on one complaint, it pulls them away from their other duties.”
Cook acknowledged the additional strain false information puts on the public.
“Especially when you have something as serious as someone claiming they were stabbed, the community has to be warned,” he said. “You have to warn the right community. The people at Oakwood were scared of a stabber running around when really the people at Ferris should have been on alert.”