SPRING GROVE, Pa. – A York cop who was charged with the shooting of a handcuffed mentally ill man outside of Spring Grove Bank WILL be heading to trial. The 15-year-veteran, Southwestern Regional Police Officer Stuart Harrison, shot 33-year-old Ryan Smith after allegedly mistaking his handgun for his Taser. Harrison claims that he meant to taser Smith into compliance, not shoot him. A simple mistake apparently by officers like reserve deputy Robert Bates who did the same thing in April 2015. In that case, Bates claimed the same mistake but was still sentenced to jail time.
In this case, Harrison is a training instructor on Taser use while Bates was a civilian playing cop. If a civilian playing cop gets jail time for accidentally shooting a suspect instead of deploying his Taser than what sentence should the trainer get? In the video of Bates’ shooting, you clearly him saying “Taser!” before shooting. That is missing from Harrison.
Despite the circumstances, Harrison is free on his own recognizance as the case moves forward. Community members have rallied behind him. A GoFundMe campaign was started to help Harrison with some claiming “It’s a bad situation for a good guy.”
The York cop had a preliminary hearing Friday before District Judge Lindy Sweeney at the York County Judicial Center. He has been charged with simple assault, a second-degree misdemeanor, in connection with the shooting.
Smith pleaded guilty to defiant trespassing and disorderly conduct and was given 12-months’ probation and ordered to continue his mental health treatment.
Smith’s mother, Christine, testified at the hearing. She was one of three witnesses who testified during the hearing. She told the court her son, Ryan, had been discharged from York Hospital the day before the May 30 incident at Santander Bank. She didn’t think he should have been released and was concerned for his safety.
According to the York Daily Record:
Smith said she overheard her son talking about having a bank account and wanting to get money. When he left the house, she went looking for him, hoping to reach him before he got to a bank.
But as she drove through the circle in Spring Grove, she saw a police vehicle at the Santander Bank, where he did not have a bank account. She stopped at the business and saw officers walking her handcuffed son out of the bank.
She told police that the man in custody was her son and that he has a mental health condition. She explained that he had just been released from the hospital. Officer Harrison assured her that they would help him get medical attention, she said.
Her son was sitting in the police vehicle with his legs still outside of the car when he was shot, she said.
A video recorded by a Santander employee was played by the prosecution. Cops alleged the mentally distressed Smith threatened employees after he tried to take out $500,000 even though he did not have an account or proper identification. At this point, the York cop ordered Smith to leave the bank. Smith refused stating he was trying to withdraw money. Harrison told Smith that he couldn’t get money without identification. The officer used his Taser on Smith. Another officer arrived to help Harrison, and Smith was placed in handcuffs. He was then escorted out of the bank.
Amanda Cozio, who cleans the bank after it closes, testified that she heard Smith’s mother pleading with officers about her son’s mental health condition before the “explosion” broke the sky.
“All of the sudden, the officer drew his gun and shot him,” Cozio said.
She testified that she heard the son ask, “Why’d you shoot me?”
Cozio took pictures of what was happening outside of the bank, and the photographs were entered into evidence during the hearing. She also testified that Smith was not fighting with police.
District Judge Lindy Sweeney at the York County Judicial Center determined that enough evidence had been presented for the case to move to trial against the York cop. She also determined bail, and Harrison was released on his own recognizance.