SPRING GROVE, Pa. – A York County cop has been charged with the shooting of a handcuffed man outside of a Spring Grove bank. The 15-year-veteran, Officer Stuart Harrison, is being charged with “simple assault”, a second-degree misdemeanor, after mistaking his Taser for his handgun. The 15-year-vet made the same rookie mistake former reserve deputy Robert Bates made when he shot and killed Eric Harris in April 2015 during an undercover operation. Harrison was placed on paid administrative leave from the Southwestern Regional Police Department following the shooting. After the charges were announced, his leave status changed to without pay.
The incident began on May 30, 2018 when Harrison responded to a call of a belligerent man, Ryan Smith, threatening people at a Santander Bank on 39 W. Hanover St. 33-year-old Smith was reportedly trying to withdraw $500,000 from the bank, even though he didn’t have an account there or proper ID.
According to 56-year-old Harrison, he told Smith twice to leave the bank but he refused. Cell phone video shows the York County cop attempting to shove Smith out of the bank. He eventually deploys his Taser twice. Both deployments proved unsuccessful with probes unable to make contact with Smith’s skin. A second cop, Officer Michael Matthews, showed up on the scene and was able to deploy his Taser successfully on the first try.
Effectively subdued, the officers handcuffed Smith and lead him out to the patrol car. Once outside however, Harrison alleges that Smith became non-compliant and refused to bend his head down or buckle his knees to get into the car. Several witnesses claim though, they saw Smith sitting in the car while the officers attempted to get his legs inside the vehicle.
The frustrated Harrison decided to break from department protocol for Taser use and attempted to shock Smith into compliance. But instead of grabbing his Taser, Harrison grabbed his service weapon and shot Smith in the thigh to make him buckle his knees. He claimed as soon as he heard the sound of the gun go off, he knew it wasn’t the Taser. It was not his intent to use his gun.
According to the investigation, Harrison kept his gun on the right side of his duty belt. The Taser was on the left side. In court paperwork, investigators noted that Harrison is a certified firearms and Taser instructor for the Southwestern Regional Police Department.
Ed Paskey, Harrison’s attorney, said Friday he could not specifically comment on the charging documents because he had not yet reviewed them.
“Having been involved in this matter within minutes of it occurring, I can say this: This was purely an accident resulting from multiple external distractions faced by both officers at the scene,” he said.
Smith’s mother showed up at the scene shortly before the shooting to inform the York County cop that Smith had a mental illness. She told investigators he was released from the hospital the day before and seemed delusional.
Smith was treated at a local hospital for his injuries. A week later Smith was charged with resisting arrest, criminal trespass and two counts of disorderly conduct.