SPRING GROVE — Southwest Regional Police Chief Gregory Bean issued the following statement Friday after one of his officers was charged with simple assault in the May 30 police-involved shooting of a 33-year-old Spring Grove man outside a Santander Bank.
The charge against Officer Stuart Lee Harrison, 56, was announced Friday by the York County District Attorney’s Office.
Harrison is accused of accidentally shooting Ryan Shane Smith, 33, while trying to arrest him at the bank.
Smith was allegedly trying to withdraw $500 without photo ID and became argumentative, prompting bank employees to summon police.
Bean’s statement reads:
“The following information is in regard to an officer involved shooting at the Santander Bank in Spring Grove on May 30, 2018. I want to provide information to our residents regarding charges that were filed today against Southwestern Regional Police Officer Stuart Harrison.
“The District Attorney’s Office spent a great deal of time on this incident and has reviewed a lot of information in processing this incident. Our department respects the position that the District Attorney’s Office has taken and appreciates the difficult decision that they were required to make. The investigative information that they received was obtained through the expert and professional work of the PA State Police. For that, we are very appreciative to both organizations for their time and effort.
“As a department, we are apologetic to Mr. Smith and we regret this incident occurred. Our department estimates that since our inception in 2002, we have successfully dealt with well over 1,000 incidents involving mental health crises. Officer Harrison has successfully handled these types of incidents dozens of times. On this occasion, it did not go as the officer planned.
“The charges are a result of an incident that by all accounts, was a violent physical struggle between Officer Harrison and Mr. Smith that continued when another officer arrived to assist, and even after Smith was restrained. This type of incident is mentally and physically demanding and exhausting for police officers. The injury to Mr. Smith occurred well into this struggle, when the officer incorrectly and accidentally reached for the wrong tool on his belt. A mistake, albeit a very serious mistake.
“In-depth explanations about how mistakes such as this can occur can be found in police research material. In many studies, researchers have likened this incident to when a person under great duress, reaches for the acce lerator in their vehicle instead of reaching for the brake. This incident should never have occurred. Unfortunately, due to the stresses and the demands of policing, similar occurrences do occur in many places throughout the country.
“In reference to these charges, we are disappointed that this review will be in a criminal courtroom. The officer has received Departmental discipline which resulted in substantial monetary penalties and other types of penalties have already, or will occur, including civil court proceedings. Our department trusts in the criminal justice system. We hope that at the conclusion of this review process, the outcome is positive for all involved. The officer will be on Administrative Leave of Absence without pay until further notice.”