A 32-year-old Poulsbo man was charged with multiple felonies Thursday in Kitsap County Superior Court for allegedly sexually assaulting two 16-year-old girls and spying on another 15-year-old girl in a restroom at Bainbridge High School.
William Christopher Merritt was also charged with first-degree burglary and two counts of second-degree assault after police said he struck two Bainbridge officers while trying to flee from police who had been alerted to an intruder at the high school Wednesday afternoon.
Merritt is also facing an additional charge of attempting to elude police, as well as two counts of indecent liberties and first-degree voyeurism. He is currently being held in the Kitsap County Jail.
Bainbridge police were called to Bainbridge High just after 2 p.m. Wednesday after school staff reported a suspicious man on the campus.
The high school — along with Commodore, Ordway Elementary and the school district offices — were also put on lockdown.
Merritt allegedly entered the gymnasium building at BHS and was looking in a trophy case when a 15-year-old girl went into a nearby restroom and entered a stall.
The teen later told a teacher that a man, later identified as Merritt, also came into the restroom and went into the stall next to her, then ducked his head under the divider wall and looked into her stall before leaving.
Another student who was walking down the hallway of the adjacent 300 Building said a man matching Merritt’s description approached her in the hallway and grabbed her chest. He then walked away without saying anything.
That student immediately reported the incident to a teacher, who tried to stop Merritt as he was still inside the 300 Building.
Merritt refused to stop and answer the teacher’s questions, and finally said, “Are you still following me?”
BHS Principal Kristin Haizlip caught up with the teacher, and they gave chase as Merritt was leaving the 300 Building and walking quickly toward the lower parking lot between BHS and Commodore.
Haizlip pointed out the intruder to Bainbridge Police Officer Chuck Kazer, who had responded to the school and was in the lower lot. He confronted Merritt as he was coming down the hill.
Merritt reportedly slipped and fell while walking down the rain-soaked hillside, then jumped up and continued toward the parking lot.
Kazer told Merritt to take his hands out of his pockets, according to court documents, but Merritt refused to obey the officer’s commands.
“Shoot me with the gun!” Merritt yelled several times at Kazer as he continued to walk away.
Merritt finally raised his hands as Kazer briefly grabbed him by the shoulder as he approached the rear end of his Honda. But when Kazer took a step back, Merritt quickly ran around the front of the blue Honda Fit and jumped inside.
Merritt then locked the doors, started the Honda and struck Kazer with the car as he drove away.
After Merritt fled the area, police began a frantic search across the island to find the Honda. Multiple law enforcement agencies from off-island were called in. Police were stationed near the ferry terminal and also near Agate Pass Bridge, as authorities established a containment perimeter and responded to multiple reports of Honda vehicles that had been seen on island streets and Highway 305.
With the emergency at the high school over, the lockdown was lifted shortly after 3 p.m.
Not long after, a third student, a 16-year-old girl, said she was leaving Bainbridge High and noticed a blue car drive past her slowly a few times as she walked along Grow Avenue.
The teen said a man walked up to her a short time later and said, “You’re really pretty, what’s your name?”
The girl told police she did not know the man; he grabbed the front of her shirt, pulled it down, and touched her chest. She said she pushed him away and the man said, “You’re really hot,” before walking away.
The 16-year-old later identified Merritt as the man who assaulted her; she gave the positive ID while he was being held in a Bainbridge Island Fire Department aid car following his apprehension just before 4 p.m.
Police finally cornered Merritt on Wyatt Way, about six blocks from the high school, after police boxed in his Honda and a patrol car rammed his vehicle to stop him.
Authorities later noted that Merritt had aimed his vehicle straight at Bainbridge Police Sgt. Trevor Ziemba while trying to escape, and also tried to hit Ziemba a second time while he was trying to elude police.
Police were able to pull Merritt out of his Honda after it was stopped on Wyatt Way. He resisted arrest and was injured, but not seriously.
He spit blood in Ziemba’s face when he was being arrested, according to court records.
The burglary charge against Merritt stems from his entering a building to commit a crime; a special allegation of sexual motivation was added to that charge. A conviction of first-degree burglary can result in a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Conviction of indecent liberties in Washington state can also result in a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
First-degree voyeurism can result in a maximum time of five years in prison upon conviction; second-degree assault can bring a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Eluding police can result in a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction.