District Attorney Tom Kearney will not pursue charges against Springettsbury Police Officers in the center of assault allegations. Kearney concluded the use of force by the Springettsbury Township Officers was insufficient to bring criminal charges against them, related to the case of Debra Williams. This closes the criminal investigation in this case. A civil lawsuit is still pending.
Sgt. Charles S. Mory Jr. an expert in police use of force helped in the investigation. “It is my opinion that the actions of the 2 involved Springettsbury Police Officers were consistent with the accepted law enforcement theory, practices, training, and MPOETC standards in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Both officers responded to their individual perceptions of the threat during their arrest and custody actions. The female subject was agitated, sounded intoxicated, resistant, uncooperative and swearing while handcuffed, and in custody in the back of the patrol vehicle. The prisoner kicked at the interior areas of the vehicle, including the protective barrier between the front and back seats numerous times. This required that the subject be removed to the rear of the patrol vehicle for the application of leg shackles. The subject also kicked and spit at the officers during this encounter while handcuffed and leg-shackled in the back seat of the patrol vehicle. The kicks could have easily landed in the facial area of the custody officer causing injury.”
Sgt. Charles S. Mory Jr.’s full statement:
“I have been requested by Investigating Officer, Sgt. Matthew Nickey, Supervisor, Criminal Investigation Section, PSP, Troop H – Harrisburg to review an MVR file dated, April 2, 2013, and render opinions with regard to municipal police officer force options and arrest and custody procedures used by Springettsbury Township Police Department Officers during their encounter with subject, Debra Williams. The Pennsylvania State Police have been asked by the York County District Attorney to conduct an investigation into this highly publicized Use of Force Incident.
My qualifications are listed in my attached resume, and I also hold the credential of “Special Instructor” under MPOETC Certification in the category of “Application of Force”.
As a result of my training, background, and professional experience as an Instructor in Self-Defense and the Use of Force, I have been designated as a “Use of Force Expert” by the PSP for the Department from 1996 to present date.
It is my opinion that the actions of the 2 involved Springettsbury Police Officers were consistent with the accepted law enforcement theory, practices, training, and MPOETC standards in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Both officers responded to their individual perceptions of the threat during their arrest and custody actions.
The female subject was agitated, sounded intoxicated, resistant, uncooperative and swearing while handcuffed, and in custody in the back of the patrol vehicle. The prisoner kicked at the interior areas of the vehicle, including the protective barrier between the front and back seats numerous times. This required that the subject be removed to the rear of the patrol vehicle for the application of leg shackles. The subject also kicked and spit at the officers during this encounter while handcuffed and leg-shackled in the back seat of the patrol vehicle. The kicks could have easily landed in the facial area of the custody officer causing injury.
The contact could have been handled a little more effectively if the subject’s legs were secured with tie-ropes rather than leg shackles, to eliminate the kicking. Verbal interaction with the subject was limited due to her constant “yelling” regarding her “wish to die”.
The choice of force options by the custody officers created a chance of injury to the suspect, but appeared to be in response to the fluid, volatile encounter in the backseat of the patrol vehicle. Better force option choices, and a coordinated officer approach to secure the subject would have given better results. Force actions with a handcuffed and leg-shackled subject do not usually include strikes to the face, unless exigent circumstances present themselves.
Ultimately, the subject was contained and secured, but better force option choices, tactics, and verbalization could have prevented the volatility and subsequent struggle with subject, Williams, during the encounter.
My conclusions: In light of the United States Supreme Court Case, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), the two officers who used force in this incident did so reasonably under the totality of circumstances confronting them. Their perceptions and actions were reactionary in nature, and their force options, although poor choices, must be weighed against officer perceived threats, the volatility and fluidness of the situation, the need for immediate control, and sustained injuries. The actions of the two officers contained the subject with minimal injury.
Sgt. Charles S. Mory Jr.
Supervisor, PSP Academy Physical Education Unit”
Devon Jacob, attorney for Debra Williams released this statement:
“York County District Attorney Tom Kearney knew about the incident involving Debra Williams and the related video soon after the incident occurred and decided not to conduct a criminal investigation until after the civil lawsuit was filed. Therefore, it is not surprising that Mr. Kearney is opting now not to prosecute Officers Chad Moyer or Gregory Hadfield for assaulting Ms. Williams. It is a sad day when the highest ranking law enforcement official decides that in his jurisdiction, a police officer may lawfully punch, choke, and taser, a suicidal female who is handcuffed behind her back with her feet shackled. I fear for the safety of all York County residents; especially the mentally ill and female residents.”
William’s filed a civil lawsuit after an incident that occurred on April 2nd, 2011. Police were called to a domestic dispute. According to the Complaint, arriving officers found Debra Williams being restrained by a male on the floor of a residence in the township. Williams claims Moyer punched and slapped her as she sat handcuffed in a patrol vehicle. Hadfield is accused of grabbing Williams by the neck and slapping and punching her as well. According to a press release from Devon Jacob, this can all be seen on the video. Hadfield also admitted to tasering Williams while she was handcuffed prior to being placed in the car. Jacob says that the officers should have been able to tell that Williams was emotionally ill, as she was visibly distraught and stated that she wanted to kill herself.
The documents sent out by Kearney do not include a ruling on allegations involving a second plaintiff, Steven Landis and an incident on August 5th, 2012. According to the Complaint filed by Landis, Moyer spotted him walking in the area of Eden Road and Sand Bank Roads around 11:22pm. Moyer ran a check on Landis and discovered he had a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest for a domestic dispute from earlier that night. Landis was not aware of the warrant at the time. During the arrest, which the attorney claims is caught on dashboard camera video, Moyer is seen violently throwing Landis to the ground. Moyer can be heard making explicit threats. He kneed Landis in the ribcage, breaking five ribs. Polizzotto held Landis down and tasered him, according to the release.
See the release here.
Statement from Police Chief Thomas Hyers:
“I have been informed by York County District Attorney Thomas Kearney, that following an extensive investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police, and a comprehensive review by this office, that no criminal charges will be filed against any Springettsbury Township Officer resulting from the incident from April 2, 2011. As this incident, which was recorded on our in-car video system, is still in civil litigation, we will have no further statement regarding the matter at this time. Thank you”
Chief Thomas Hyers, Springettsbury Township Police
Statement from Cpl. Greg Hadfield’s attorney:
“From the very beginning I’ve contended and told the district attorney’s office that I believed this criminal investigation had no merit. I commend Mr. Kearney and I commend the Pennsylvania State Police for doing a thorough analysis of the entire event and providing the details to the public. I think that will assure other individuals who originally lept to some conclusions based upon a snippet of video that this was in fact not a criminal event. It was handled professionally and admirably by my client. These encounters are violent, volatile, and fluent, and police officers just like any other individuals have to react to the situation at hand and they have to make quick decisions. And while not every decision is perfect , it’s certainly legal. And in this case that was the final decision and I think it was appropriate. It’s a stressful event and when you can have finality and closure through the analysis of the District Attorney’s office, puts my client at ease, which in turn puts me at ease for this young man who I think did nothing wrong.”