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Southwest Regional Police officer will be charged in police-involved shooting of Spring Grove man

SPRING GROVE, YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- The officer accused in the police-involved shooting of a 33-year-old Spring Grove man in the parking lot of a Santander Bank in May has been charged in the incident, according to the York County District Attorney's Office.

Officer Stuart Lee Harrison, 56, is facing one count of simple assault, according to a criminal complaint affidavit released Friday by the office of District Attorney David W. Sunday Jr.

Sunday's office said in a statement that he will have no further comments on the matter, noting that the investigation remains open at this time.

Harrison, an officer with the Southwestern Regional Police Department, is accused of shooting Ryan Shane Smith, 33, in the right thigh while attempting to get Smith into the back of a patrol car following his arrest for the at the Santander Bank in Spring Grove on the afternoon of May 30.

Smith was allegedly attempting to withdraw $500 without providing photo ID and became argumentative with bank employees, prompting them to call police.

Harrison allegedly shot Smith by accident, believing he was using his Taser device on Smith's thigh.

Harrison used his firearm instead, according to the criminal complaint.

Witnesses say they believe Harrison may have taken it too far.

"When that man refused to swing his legs around and the officer couldn't get him all the way up in that cruiser, he got mad, snatched that gun out and just shot him," said Harry Harrington, witness.

"Sure the man was in the wrong with what he was doing but he was already cuffed on the ground and another officer was helping him, so why jump up and shoot him," added Harrington, witness."It was very wrong what he’d done, he had a lot of other options," Harrington added.

In a statement released released by Southwestern Regional Police Department, officials wrote in part — quote: “We are disappointed that this review will be in a criminal courtroom"…adding…."Our department trusts in the criminal justice system. we hope that at the conclusion of this review process, the outcome is positive for all involved." - Southwestern Regional Police Department.

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Harrison, of Spring Grove, is being charged because he violated Title 18 of the PA Crimes code section 2701 (a)(2), which states that a person is guilty of assault if they "negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon."

According to the criminal complaint, was interviewed by police regarding the incident on June 5, 2018.

In the interview, Harrison said:

  • He was dispatched to the Santander Bank on West Hanover Street in Spring Grove for the report of an unruly subject at about 4:50 p.m. on May 30.
  • When he arrived on scene, he met with the bank manager, who pointed out the individual that prompted the call to police. The man, later identified as Smith, was demanding to take money out of his account, but did not have proper identification.
  • Harrison approached Smith, who was on the far side of the building when Harrison arrived. Harrison noticed Smith's physical size, and that it appeared Smith was frustrated. Harrison approached Smith, greeted him, and advised that Smith needed to go and retrieve his identification if he wanted to withdraw money.
  • Because of Smith's size and the fact he was younger than Harrison, the officer did not feel comfortable going "hands on" with Smith. So he advised Smith that he was under arrest, withdrew his Taser, and deployed it on Smith.
  • When the Taser struck Smith, he pulled his shirt out, which caused to Taser's probes to fail in making contact with Smith, rendering it ineffective.
  • Smith refused Harrison's verbal commands, prompting Harrison to call for back-up via his radio. Harrison requested an expedited response.
  • Harrison then re-loaded his Taser with a second cartridge and deployed it on Smith a second time. The second Taser was also ineffective.
  • A second Southwestern Regional Police officer, Michael Matthews, arrived on scene shortly after Harrison deployed the second Taser. Both officers were on the ground with Smith, who was tightly holding his arms under his body. Matthews deployed his Taser into Smith's back as he was lying on the ground, which allowed the officers to get Smith's hands behind his back and handcuff him.
  • The officers then escorted Smith toward Matthews' patrol car. Smith refused to get in the car, and the officers were unable to get Smith's head down or buckle his knees to get him inside. Harrison attempted to strike Smith's knee several times to get it to buckle, but that was ineffective.
  • Harrison then decided to use his Taser on Smith's thigh, thinking it would get Smith to bend his knee so the officers could get him in the car.
  • Harrison placed what he thought was his Taser device against Smith's right thing and pulled the trigger. But as soon as he heard the sound, he knew he hadn't used his Taser, but his firearm instead. Harrison re-holstered his firearm. He did not intend to use the firearm on Smith.
  • Harrison said Smith asked him, "Dude, why'd you shoot me?"
  • Harrison called County Control and advised there had been a shooting. He requested EMS for Smith, then retrieved a first aid kit from his patrol vehicle, which Matthews used to administer first aid on Smith until EMS arrived.

In his interview with police, Matthews said a woman arrived on the scene as he and Harrison were attempting to get Smith in the patrol car. The woman, later identified as Smith's mother, was yelling that Smith had just been released from the hospital.

Matthews said he noticed one of Harrison's hands drop as they were trying to get Smith in the car, but did not know what Harrison was doing. He told police he heard a noise and knew it wasn't a Taser.

In her interview with police, Christine Smith, the suspect's mother, said her son had been released from the hospital the day before and seemed delusional. He was under the impression he had a bank account, she told police. Prior to the incident, he told her he was going to get money out of the bank and left home against her wishes.

Christine Smith began searching banks in the area, and arrived at the Santander Bank as the officers were escorting her son outside. She told police she informed the officers her son had a mental illness.

After she heard the sound of a gun discharging, Christine Smith told police she yelled "You shot my son" at the officers, one of whom allegedly replied "I didn't mean to."

A witness interviewed by police confirmed Christine Smith's account. She said she heard Christine Smith tell the officers her son was "not in the right frame of mind."

The witness said she saw Ryan Smith sitting in the back of the patrol car with his legs still outside when one of the officers, later identified as Harrison, shot him.

A second witness at the bank said Ryan Smith was escorted outside by Harrison, whom he said was acting "reasonable" in his attempt to get Smith to leave. When Harrison and Matthews escorted Smith outside, the witness followed, and saw an officer, later identified as Harrison, shoot Smith in the leg.

The witness said a woman, later identified as Smith's mother, was on the scene, yelling for help and advising the officers that Smith was off his medication as they struggled to get him in the patrol car.

Police also viewed cellphone footage taken by someone in the bank. The footage showed:

  • Harrison push Smith toward the door, with his Taser out of its holster
  • Harrison tell Smith to go outside
  • Smith refuses, telling Harrison "No, I'm trying to get my (expletive) money" and "Why are you pushing me like that?"
  • Harrison points his Taser at Smith and again orders him to leave
  • Smith asks "Why are you scared, man?" and tells Harrison to "Relax" "Calm down, relax, I'm not trying to hurt you."
  • Harrison tells Smith "They want you off the premesis"
  • Smith says again he wants to get his money out
  • Smith moves toward Harrison, who tells him to step back, then deploys his Taser into Smith
  • Smith pulls his shirt, which causes the Taser probes to come out
  • Harrison deploys the Taser a second time
  • Smith pulls his shirt again
  • Harrison tells Smith to "get back," while pushing Smith and attempting to "drive stun" Smith with the Taser
  • Harrison repeats his command to back up and tells Smith to "just leave"
  • Smith tells Harrison "you know who I am, man"
  • Harrison requests backup via police radio, telling the backup to hasten its response
  • Smith tells Harrison "Calm down, relax."
  • Harrison attempts to use the Taser to "drive stun" Smith, who tells Harrison to "let go" and "stop (expletive) with me!"
  • Harrison tells Smith to leave, pointing to the door
  • Smith telling Harrison "I came to withdraw my money."
  • Harrison tells Smith he's not getting any money without a photo ID, and Smith says "I don't have a picture ID; I don't know what to tell you."
  • Harrison uses the Taser to "drive stun" Smith, and pushes him into a bank sign, knocking it over
  • After more verbal exchanges between Harrison and Smith, Matthews, the backup, arrives on scene. Harrison orders Smith to put his hands behind his back.
  • Matthews successfully deploys his Taser on Smith, and both officers get Smith on the ground, eventually getting his arms behind his back and handcuffing him
  • Both officers get Smith on his feet and escort him from the bank.

There is no video evidence of the events outside the bank, according to the criminal complaint.

Harrison has been an officer with Southwestern Regional Police since 2003, the criminal complaint states. He is a certified firearms instructor and certified Taser instructor for the Southwest Regional Police Department, the criminal complaint states.