Harford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy First Class Christopher Behles started the day Tuesday in court for a hearing on a single misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, stemming from an April incident in which he fired his service weapon at a fleeing suspect’s vehicle.
By the end of the day he had been indicted by a grand jury on a single felony count of first-degree assault, and two misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault.
Behles, 37, was first charged April 29 in connection with an incident earlier that month. The new charges came hours after a brief hearing Tuesday morning in Harford County District Court, after which State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly said he would bring the case against Behles before a grand jury.
At that time, it was not immediately clear when the grand jury would hear the case. But in an e-mail to The Dagger, Cassilly said he was able to take the case to the grand jury just a short time later.
“Coincidentally the grand jury was meeting today so I left district court and came across the street,” Cassilly said.
At the time of the incident, the Sheriff’s Office said Behles was off-duty and on his way home when he was rear-ended on Norrisville Road by William Harvey V, 33, of Jarrettsville. Behles identified himself as an officer and an altercation ensued when Harvey attempted to flee the scene of the accident.
According to charging documents against Harvey, witnesses said Behles fired his service pistol multiple times at Harvey’s vehicle as it fled, but failed to hit Harvey himself. Behles pursued Harvey into Baltimore County, where Harvey crashed his vehicle and was apprehended by Behles after a brief foot chase. Both sustained minor injuries in the incident.
Heading into Tuesday’s District Court hearing, Behles had the option to enter a plea or request a jury trial. Behles’ attorney, Shaun Owens of Baltimore firm Schlachman, Belsky, and Weiner, declined to say whether or not he requested a jury trial, and Cassilly likewise would not specifically say that Behles’ defense attorneys had done so.
Instead, Cassilly said after the very brief hearing that he would take the case before a grand jury. At the time, Owens said he hoped that jury would exonerate his client.
“I certainly hope the citizens of this county accurately apply the law and find my client is absolutely not at fault,” Owens said.
Behles was suspended with pay from his duties with the Sheriff’s Office when he was first charged; he has continued to receive pay due to the charge against him being a misdemeanor, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Edward Hopkins. Hopkins said that deputies who are charged with a felony can be, but are not required to be, suspended without pay.
“At this point we have not received any criminal paperwork related to DFC Behles and he remains suspended with pay,” Hopkins said.
Other than an entry in an online court database, the only document available in Harford County Circuit Court related to Behles new charges was a single page true bill indictment which arrived late in the day. The document, presented below, lists Harvey as the victim in all three counts, but provides no additional detail on Behles’ actions that day.
Dagger Contributing Editor Cindy Mumby provided additional reporting for this story.