Judge orders hearing in case of ex-Southwestern cop who shot man in leg
A York County judge deciding whether to drop the simple assault case against an ex-police officer who shot a handcuffed man has scheduled a hearing on the matter.
York County District Attorney Dave Sunday filed a motion May 28 asking presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook to nol pros, meaning dismiss, the misdemeanor simple assault case against former Southwestern Regional Police Officer Stu Harrison in the interests of justice.
In response, Ryan Shane Smith — the man Harrison shot in the leg as Smith was handcuffed and partially sitting in a police cruiser — wrote a letter to Cook opposing the request and stating, "I was pushed to the side and brushed under the rug and covered up."
He asked the judge to set a hearing before making her decision.
"I was nearly killed at the hands of the police," Smith wrote. "I'm asking that I can please at least be heard by the Court. ... Will you please just hear me out."
Cook has set the hearing for 2 p.m. Monday.
Prosecutors maintain dropping the charge is in the interests of justice. Their motion states Harrison, 58, now of South Carolina, was a well-respected police officer for 16 years before being suspended for the shooting and that he served as a Marine before becoming an officer.
No future danger: "Nothing throughout his career or personal life gives rise to the slightest concern that Mr. Harrison presents a future danger requiring an ongoing prosecution to protect the public," the motion states.
It also states that because Harrison has no criminal record, state sentencing guidelines recommend probation to up to a month in prison for a simple-assault conviction.
After the shooting, Harrison took "great steps" to prove he would not reoffend and expressed "a tremendous amount of remorse" for injuring Smith, the motion states, adding he gave two presentations to police-academy cadets about his experience, as a cautionary tale for dealing with people who have mental-health issues.
Smith's letter to the judge states he suffers from pain and post-traumatic stress disorder daily and believes Harrison was undercharged.
Notification issue: He also maintains the district attorney's office didn't notify him that they intended to have the case dropped. Pennsylvania's Crime Victims Act of 1998 requires prosecutors to notify victims if they intend to reduce or drop charges in personal-injury and burglary cases.
Smith's mother was notified, and she has power of attorney over her son's legal matters, according to a DA's office spokesperson.
Christine Smith said she was told in early February that prosecutors were considering dropping the case. She opposes it and said she's not convinced the shooting was inadvertent, as officials have said.
She also said she didn't tell her son that prosecutors were considering dropping the case because he had enough going on in his life and because she wasn't sure it would happen.
She and two other family members recently protested in front of the York County Judicial Center, opposing the case being dropped.
The shooting: Officials have said that Harrison inadvertently drew his firearm rather than his Taser as he was trying to get Ryan Smith to move his legs inside the cruiser where the handcuffed man was already sitting.
It happened May 30, 2018, in the parking lot of Santander Bank at 39 W. Hanover St. in Spring Grove.
Harrison was called there near the end of his shift because Ryan Smith, who has mental-health issues, was causing a disturbance in the bank, asking for his money when he didn't have an account there.
Attorneys Ed Paskey and Chris Ferro, who represent Harrison, have declined comment until the case is resolved.
Smith, 34, of Jackson Township, is currently in York County Prison on a probation violation.
On May 11, he and his mother filed a lawsuit in Harrisburg's federal court against Harrison, the former Southwestern Regional Police Department, its now-disbanded police board and Spring Grove borough.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.