A Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy who fired his weapon at a suspect attempting to leave the scene of an accident with the off-duty officer earlier this month was charged Monday with reckless endangerment, according to court records.
Deputy First Class Christopher M. Behles, 37, faces a single misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment in connection with the April 8 incident. Behles is an eight-year veteran of the agency assigned to the Violent Street Crimes Unit as a plainclothes officer, the agency said at the time.
The charge originated with the office of State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Edward Hopkins. Hopkins said Behles has been suspended with pay as the charge against him is not a felony.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Behles was off duty and on his way home in an unmarked agency Ford Crown Victoria shortly before 5 p.m. on April 8 when he was rear-ended on Norrisville Road at White Hall Road by a 2001 Toyota 4Runner driven by William Redding Harvey V, 33, of Jarrettsville.
Behles identified himself and engaged in a conversation with Harvey, who police said began to slowly veer around the police vehicle. According to a Sheriff’s Office release at the time, Behles “became caught up” in the movements of Harvey’s vehicle and, concerned for his own safety, “discharged his weapon in an attempt to stop the threat” but did not hit Harvey.
After Behles shot at him, police said Harvey fled the scene, and Behles pursued him on Norrisville Road and Route 439 into Baltimore County. A short time later, Harvey lost control and rolled his vehicle. He fled on foot, and was apprehended by Behles as backup arrived.
Cassilly told The Dagger that the reckless endangerment charge pertains specifically to Behles firing his weapon during the incident. Charging documents against Behles were not immediately available.
Hopkins said that the agency’s Criminal Investigations Division reviews any incident in which an officer employs deadly force, and forwards a report to the state’s attorney’s office. However, that review by the Criminal Investigation Division does not consitute an internal investigation of the officer’s actions, Hopkins said, and Behles has not been, nor is currently, the subject of an agency investigation.
Under state law regarding reckless endangerment, an individual may not take action which creates “a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person,” nor fire a weapon from a vehicle in a manner that creates the same risks. The latter portion does not apply to a police officer or security guard “in the performance of an official duty.” If found guilty, Behles faces a maximum of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000; a court date has been set for July 2 at 8:30 a.m.
Harvey was charged with second degree assault, resisting arrest, obstruction and hindering and failure to obey a lawful order of a police officer, as well as other traffic charges. He was taken to the Harford County Detention Center and released on $3,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in Harford County District Court on June 4.