A Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy recklessly endangered the life of a suspect attempting to flee the scene of an accident with the officer by firing his service weapon at the man, court documents allege.
Deputy First Class Christopher M. Behles, 37, was charged Monday with a single count of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, in connection with the April 8 incident.
According to documents filed in Harford County District Court, Cassilly alleged that Behles recklessly endangered the life of William R. Harvey V of Jarrettsville by firing his weapon at Harvey’s vehicle as it attempted to leave the scene of an accident with Behles, who was off-duty at the time.
Behles pursued Harvey into northern Baltimore County until Harvey crashed his vehicle and fled on foot. According to police, Behles took Harvey into custody as backup units arrived.
The documents shed additional light on the charge against Behles by specifying the individual whom Behles allegedly endangered. However, the filing stops short of detailing the exact manner in which Behles behaved recklessly.
Under state law, a law enforcement officer or security guard acting in performance of official duties may be legally able to discharge a weapon from a vehicle, but are still subject to the more general statute prohibiting “conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious injury to another.” If found guilty, Behles faces a maximum of five years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Edward Hopkins said the county’s Law Department “will not” represent deputies in criminal offenses, and that Behles would have to obtain private counsel.
Cassilly’s charge comes after a review of the incident by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division, standard practice in cases in which an officer employs deadly force. Those findings are forwarded to Cassilly’s office for review. Hopkins said the agency’s review does not constitute an internal investigation, and Behles has not been the subject of such an investigation since the April 8 incident. A hearing has been set for July 2 at 8:30 a.m. in District Court.
Last year, Cassilly declined to charge a two Edgewood homeowners after an individual entered their home and was accidentally asphyxiated as they attempted to restrain him.
Though eventually ruled a homicide, and involving a private home rather than a public area, Cassilly told The Dagger that the homeowner was in sufficient fear for their life that violent action would have been warranted in that case.
“The deceased came into someone’s house, basically broke in, and made comments that frightened her to the point that she had to leave her home,” Cassilly said.
“Frankly, my position would have been, had he come in and made comments like he did, she could have pulled a gun and shot him, and I’d have been fine with that,” he said.
The complaint against Behles filed in Harford County District Court follows: