California cop facing assault charge
A California borough police officer who had been suspended earlier this year now is accused of assaulting a handcuffed suspect.
Chief Rick Encapera on Monday charged full-time Officer Justin Shultz, 29, of Connellsville, with misdemeanor counts of official oppression and simple assault.
The charges stem from an alleged early morning incident Nov. 9 involving Shultz and suspect Adam Logan, 27, of California.
Encapera said Logan was in custody at the police station around 3 a.m. awaiting arraignment on charges related to an alleged purse snatching.
Logan was standing in the holding cell, handcuffed behind his back and secured to a bench with a leg shackle, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Encapera showed The Valley Independent footage from video surveillance inside the station, which shows Logan appearing to continuously bicker with Shultz and two other officers as Shultz finished searching him.
The video shows the three officers leaving the cell and Logan continuing to chatter out the cell door. That's when it appears Shultz walked back in, grabbed Logan by the throat, pinned him against the wall and shook him twice.
Shultz then allegedly pulled Logan toward him and slammed him to the bench and floor. Logan appeared to be in what Encapera described as “substantial pain.”
On Nov. 18, Logan waived his right to a preliminary hearing on robbery, simple assault and other charges for the alleged purse snatching. He remains in the Washington County Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000 bond.
Encapera said he viewed the video and sent an email to Shultz on Nov. 11 telling him not to come to work. The chief said he followed that up with a written letter telling Shultz he was off the work schedule.
Encapera said Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone recently reviewed the video and advised the chief to file charges.
“I've been a cop for 36 years, and I've gotten mad, but you never do anything like this,” Encapera said. “Once you handcuff someone, the game is over.”
Encapera said his department often uses leg shackles for arrestees because they are often highly intoxicated and will run into cell walls and later claim mistreatment by officers.
The chief said he did not want to give the department “a black eye,” but felt there was little choice but to file charges against Shultz.
“This is not something you can just sweep under the carpet,” Encapera said. “When you get a complaint from someone who was arrested, you have to take it with a grain of salt.
“You have to let them go through the court proceeding, and if they don't file a formal complaint, I can't do anything. ... In this instance (Logan) was secured. It was definitely mistreating somebody.”
Borough council will ultimately determine whether Shultz is terminated.
Encapera said he took Shultz off street patrol and placed him on “administrative duties” in May after receiving “numerous informal complaints” regarding Shultz's conduct.
On May 13, council suspended Shultz and officer Terry Childs without pay after the two returned an unmarked vehicle to Washington, Pa., May 3 during a Friday night shift.
Their action left the borough with just one available officer. The trip was not authorized, Encapera said.
While Shultz and Childs were away, a fight erupted outside Sigz Bistro, a business on Second Street. The brawl required back up from four neighboring police departments.
Encapera said Childs submitted a letter of resignation, effective Dec. 1.
With Shultz off the schedule, California is down to four working full-time officers.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.