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No decision yet from trial board in case of accused York City officer

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

No decision was made Wednesday after a nine-hour internal trial board hearing in the case of a York City police officer accused by three people of reenacting the police-custody death of George Floyd.

Officer Clayton Swartz is on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the hearing, which concluded at 6:30 p.m.

"They're not making a decision tonight," said White Rose Fraternal Order of Police President Matt Irvin, who is also a York City police officer.

The board will reserve its decision until after both sides submit their findings of fact and conclusions of law, according to Irvin.

"That's not uncommon," attorney Ed Paskey said. He and law partner Doug France represented Swartz at the trial board.

A number of witnesses were called during the hearing, which was held in York City Council chambers and was closed to the public.

Accusers not called: Missing as witnesses, however, were the people who said Swartz and another man pantomimed Floyd's death, according to Paskey.

"The three people who made the complaint were not even called (to testify) by the city," he said, meaning he was unable to cross-examine them. "And that's a shame."

York City Police Officer Clayton Swartz, at right, stands with former Chief Troy Bankert at the scene of a homicide at West Princess and South West streets on Sept. 26, 2018.
(Dawn J. Sagert photo)

Attorney Joe Rudolf, who represented the city in the hearing, declined comment as he left City Hall Wednesday evening.

The trial board is a disciplinary tribunal and follows procedures outlined in the collective bargaining agreement between the White Rose FOP Lodge and the York City Police Department.

Witnesses testified before the trial board regarding what they heard or saw at a May 30 college graduation party at a home in Spring Garden Township.

Three people previously told The York Dispatch they were at the party and witnessed Swartz and another man reenacting the May 25 killing of Floyd by Minneapolis Police, one of whom kneeled on Floyd's neck until he was dead.

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

Allegations: The three people at the party who spoke with The York Dispatch allege Swartz put his knee against the neck of a man lying on a couch and said, "Can you breathe? Are you dead yet?" while the man convulsed and pretended he was dying. Two of the women are Black and said they believe Swartz pantomimed Floyd's death for their benefit.

The man on the couch, Christopher Owens, said the allegations aren't true.

He said he is biracial and acknowledged saying "I can't breathe" as he was lying on a couch, but he 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 hosting the party through marriage. 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 "Moe" Robinson III has said the internal investigation into the matter was 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, who is a retired York City police officer.

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

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