YORK COUNTY, Pa. — York County District Attorney Dave Sunday filed a motion to drop criminal charges against a former Southwestern Regional Police officer who shot a man who was handcuffed outside a Spring Grove bank in 2018.
Stu Harrison, 58, is charged with simple assault in the incident, which occurred on May 30, 2018 at a Santander bank on West Hanover Street in Spring Grove.
Harrison shot Ryan Shane Smith, who was in the process of being arrested for causing a disturbance inside the bank.
According to accounts at the time of the incident, Smith entered the bank at approximately 4:30 p.m. and wanted money from the teller. The teller told Smith he did not have an account with Santander Bank or proper identification, and therefore could not withdraw any money.
Smith allegedly became disorderly and began to threaten employees inside the bank, ignoring requests from several bank employees to leave. He continued to ask for money until bank employees summoned police, accounts of the incident noted.
Members of the Southwest Regional Police Department, including Harrison, then arrived and attempted to escort Smith outside, but he again refused to leave and would not cooperate with officers, the police investigation determined.
When the officers attempted to take him into custody, Smith allegedly resisted arrest. Officers allegedly fired several Taser darts at Smith, but they were ineffective, according to investigators.
The officers eventually gained control of Smith and escorted him outside the bank.
A witness outside the bank said Smith was shot in the leg while officers were attempting to get him inside a police car.
An investigation determined that the officer, later identified as Harrison, shot Smith about 20 minutes after he had been placed in handcuffs. Harrison said he thought he grabbed his taser and actually had his duty weapon in his hand. He held it against Smith's leg and shot him.
Smith was initially charged with resisting arrest, criminal trespass, and two counts of disorderly conduct for his actions inside the bank. The resisting arrest and one of the disorderly conduct charges was dropped and he plead guilty to the trespassing and other disorderly conduct charge. He was given probation.
Harrison was charged with one count of simple assault following an investigation by State Police.
In a memo filed Thursday, Sunday said he was making the request to drop the case as part of his ethical obligation to seek justice.
Harrison, Sunday noted, had no criminal record or prior convictions, and was a highly regarded, 15-year veteran of the police department. There was no evidence that Harrison should be regarded as a danger to the public, Sunday wrote.
Furthermore, Sunday wrote, Harrison expressed "a tremendous amount of remorse" throughout the investigation of the incident. Sunday noted that Harrison conducted trainings at police academies across the region, talking to cadets about the incident and how to prevent a similar situation from occurring.
"Mr. Harrison's conduct and measures taken post-arrest establish that he highly appreciates the seriousness of this offense and his great degree of remorse for injuring Mr. Smith," Sunday wrote. "This further reaffirms that further prosecution of Mr. Harrison is unnecessary at this time to protect the public or to further any rehabilitation of Mr. Harrison."
Sunday noted that Smith's mother, Christine, was "within feet" of Smith during the shooting and serves as his caretaker due to his mental illness.
"The Commonwealth greatly appreciates and shows great concern for the unimaginable trauma suffered by Mrs. Smith in being present at this shooting," Sunday wrote.
Christine Smith wanted Harrison to be barred from carrying a firearm as a police officer and for the case to serve as a teaching example to law enforcement who interact with people suffering from mental health issues, Sunday wrote.
Those desired outcomes have occurred, he noted, and further conviction on the simple assault charge is unnecessary for justice to be served.
"We certainly understand and respect her desire for further punishment," Sunday wrote. "But we conclude that would be the sole purpose behind obtaining a conviction at this point: punishment for punishment’s sake.
"We conclude that justice requires that this cannot be the sole consideration for continuing a prosecution if all other factors merit discontinuing the case."
Harrison has already experienced a lasting punishment in that he, who prior to the incident had led a life of exemplary public service, will now be forever associated with the incident, Sunday wrote.
"Quite frankly, these circumstances provide far more of a lasting sanction than anything that a conviction would bring," Sunday wrote in the memo.
In order for Sunday's request to become official, a York County judge must sign off on it.