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Family of Spring Grove-area man shot by cop protests DA's request to drop case

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

The parents and aunt of a man shot in the leg by a Southwestern Regional police officer protested in front of the York County Judicial Center on Monday afternoon in response to prosecutors seeking to drop the criminal case against the officer.

"I want justice for myself, I want justice for my son and I want justice for the mental-health community," Christine Smith told The York Dispatch.

Officials have said that Ryan Shane Smith, 34, of Jackson Township, was inadvertently shot in the upper leg by former Officer Stu Harrison in the parking lot of Santander Bank at 39 W. Hanover St. in Spring Grove on May 30, 2018.

Officials said Smith was handcuffed and in the back of a police cruiser but wouldn't comply with officers' commands that he pull his legs inside the car. Harrison thought he pulled his Taser but instead pulled his .40-caliber service firearm, put it against Ryan Smith's leg and shot him, officials have said.

Christine Smith, left, husband Shane, and sister Cathy Glatfelter, right hold a peaceful protest in front of the York County Judicial Center after learning that the District Attorney's office has decided to drop charges against former Southwestern Regional Police Officer Stu Harrison, Monday, June 1, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Ryan Smith struggles with mental-health issues. He developed post-traumatic stress disorder after being shot, his former attorney said.

Harrison, 58, now of South Carolina, remains charged with the misdemeanor of simple assault.

Last week, the York County District Attorney's Office filed a motion seeking to drop the case and noting that it is in the interests of justice. The presiding judge hadn't approved the request as of Monday.

"I wanted to see him in criminal court," Christine Smith said of Harrison. "I trusted that cop. Now I don't trust cops at all."

Mom was eyewitness: Christine Smith witnessed her son being shot and was standing so close that she was spattered with his blood, she said, adding that she too is suffering from PTSD.

Southwestern Regional Police Officer Stu Harrison

Ryan Smith's father, Shane Smith, and aunt, Cathy Glatfelter, joined Christine Smith at 2 p.m. Monday in front of the judicial center, holding signs demanding justice.

The family members maintain Harrison didn't take into account Ryan Smith's mental-health issues. Ryan Smith refused to leave the bank and was demanding his money, but he had no account there, officials have said.

He was in surgery for 11 hours, then in the hospital for a month, followed by two weeks in a rehabilitation center, his mother said.

"He has pain every day," said Christine Smith, who is a nurse. "They couldn't get (all of) the bullet out," because it's too close to his femoral artery.

She said she's remained quiet for two years hoping Harrison's case would make its way to trial or a guilty plea, and said she would have been satisfied if Harrison had received a probationary sentence.

Advocate: "I want to make my voice heard," she said, adding that she advocates for the rights of those with mental illness.

Harrison's attorneys, Chris Ferro and Ed Paskey, have declined comment until after the case is resolved.

State police investigate an incident at Santander Bank, 39 W. Hanover St., in Spring Grove Wednesday, May 30. (Photo: Lindsay C. VanAsdalan)

"District Attorney (Dave) Sunday, first assistant Tim Barker, detectives and victim-witness coordinators met with Ms. Smith on multiple occasions, both in person and over the phone throughout the course of the investigation," DA's Office spokesperson Kyle King said. "We certainly respect (her) opinion. However, the office of the district attorney believes this is an appropriate outcome in this case."

More:Spring Grove-area man shot by cop pleads guilty to harassing 13-year-old

More:Police officer facing trial in shooting at Spring Grove bank

Dad weighs in: "Anyone else who did what (Harrison) did would be facing criminal charges," Shane Smith said. He said he doesn't believe the shooting was accidental, and Christine Smith said she also doubts it was accidental.

Glatfelter recalled rushing to the bank parking lot that day and seeing her nephew on a stretcher.

"It was chaos," Glatfelter said. "My nephew was looking at me and asking, 'Am I going to be OK?'"

Christine Smith, center, husband Shane, and sister Cathy Glatfelter, right hold a peaceful protest in front of the York County Judicial Center after learning that the District Attorney's office has decided to drop charges against former Southwestern Regional Police Officer Stu Harrison, Monday, June 1, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The motion filed by the prosecution to drop Harrison's criminal case notes he is remorseful and has twice spoken to police cadets so perhaps they can avoid the mistakes he made that day.

"They say he has remorse, but how do I know that?" Christine Smith asked. 

Dropping the case would mean Harrison won't be held accountable for his actions, she maintains.

"If he was that remorseful, he'd take his medicine," Shane Smith said.

"There was no reason to tase (my son)," Christine Smith said. "He was confused. ... I thought cops would be trained ... to defuse the situation. But I think (Harrison) made it worse."

Ryan and Christine Smith on May 11 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.

Ryan Smith is currently being held on a probation violation. His mother said he, like his family, wants justice.

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