Judge: DA can’t drop charge in handcuffed prisoner shooting

Regional News

YORK, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania judge once again denied a county prosecutor’s request to drop a misdemeanor charge against a former police officer who shot a man in handcuffs outside a bank 2 1/2 years ago.

York County President Judge Maria Musti Cook issued the ruling Monday in the case of 59-year-old former officer Stuart Harrison, who is charged with simple assault in the May 2018 shooting outside the Spring Grove bank, the York Daily Record reported.

Prosecutors argued that they could no longer prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt following the 2019 death of a key witness. Cook, however, said about 80% of criminal cases before the court lack an independent witness and that wasn’t a valid reason to end the prosecution.

The judge also denied a bid to drop the charge last year, saying it was inappropriate for county prosecutors to “usurp the role of the sentencing court or even a fact-finder.” Prosecutors have 30 days to file an appeal.

Harrison, a former Southwestern Regional officer who had been on the force for more than 15 years, said he meant to use a stun gun when he shot the 33-year-old suspect in the leg. State police said the stun gun and firearm were being worn on different sides of the officer’s belt and were different colors and weights.

Harrison served as the certified firearms instructor for the Southwestern Regional Police Department, which disbanded at the end of 2019.

Authorities said the defendant sought $500,000 from a bank teller but didn’t have ID or an account. His mother said he had been released from a psychiatric unit the day before and was confused. He pleaded guilty to defiant trespass and disorderly conduct and was placed on probation.

He and his mother have opposed the move to drop the case against the officer, saying he should be facing even more serious charges, and have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force.

Chris Ferro, one of Harrison’s attorneys, said he is otherwise ready to proceed to trial.

“We’ve been prepared for years now, judge,” Ferro said. “Nothing has changed.”

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