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York City officer to face trial board, accused of reenacting death of George Floyd

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A York City police officer accused by three people of reenacting the police-custody death of George Floyd will face an internal trial board, according to a York City official.

Officer Clayton Swartz is on unpaid administrative leave pending the hearing, scheduled for Aug. 19, according to a statement from Mayor Michael Helfrich's office.

An email sent out shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday states:

“Following the procedures laid out by the collective bargaining agreement between the Fraternal Order of Police White Rose Lodge #15 and the City of York, and the York City Police Department General Orders, Officer Swartz will stand before a trial board on August 19th, 2020. The trial board is a disciplinary tribunal as defined in the collective bargaining agreement and YCPD General Orders.“

The mayor's office noted that no further comment or statement would be made at this time.

Three people told The York Dispatch they were at a college graduation party on May 30 at a home in Spring Garden Township when Swartz and another man reenacted the death.

Swartz was placed on paid administrative leave on June 4, and that leave was changed to unpaid on July 16, city officials said.

Allegations: Those at the party allege Swartz said to the man, "Can you breathe? Are you dead yet?" while the man on the couch convulsed and pretended he was dying. Two of the women are Black and said they believe Swartz pantomimed Floyd's death for their benefit.

York City Police Officer Clayton Swartz (at right) poses for a photo with his father, Spring Garden Twp. Police Chief George Swartz, who retired from the York City Police Department before becoming chief in Spring Garden.

The other man involved, Christopher Owens, said the allegations aren't true.

He said he is biracial, and admitted saying "I can't breathe" as he was lying on a couch, but said Swartz never put a knee on his neck.

Owens maintains he was lying on his sister's couch when Swartz came up to him and shook his chest to get him to rejoin the party, and that "nothing else occurred."

The three women maintain they are telling the truth and noted that Swartz is related to the family through marriage.

They have expressed concern that the incident would be covered up. Read the full account of their allegations here: 

More:York City cop accused of acting out George Floyd's death at party

Internal investigation: York City Police Commissioner Osborne Robinson has said an internal investigation into the matter was launched, handled by Inspector Michael Davis of the department's Internal Affairs Division.

"If that allegation is true, it is extremely disturbing and unacceptable," Robinson has said. "I take these allegations seriously."

If the allegations are found to be true, he said, they would be considered general misconduct.

Punishment for general misconduct can range from counseling to termination, the commissioner said. He noted that the standard for guilt in an administrative process such as an internal investigation is not the same as in a criminal case.

Swartz was hired in June 2017 and is the son of Spring Garden Township Police Chief George Swartz.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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