DENVER – An officer with the Sheridan Police Department has been charged with attempted second-degree assault for allegedly putting a woman suspected of shoplifting in a chokehold after she spit on him during an arrest earlier this month.
Shawn Ralph, 50, faces one count of attempted second-degree assault – strangulation in the heat of passion, in connection with the Sept. 3 incident, which is a class 6 felony. Colorado law prohibits officers from using chokeholds on people after lawmakers passed Senate Bill 217 last year.
According to an arrest affidavit written by Sheridan Police Department Cdr. Jon Macdonald, Officer Ralph, another Sheridan officer and a Sheridan Police Department sergeant were at a 7-Eleven on Federal Blvd. responding to a report of a woman who had shoplifted from the store.
The sergeant at the scene and other officer handcuffed the woman, whom the affidavit says was resisting being detained, and Ralph helped sit her on the ground.
Ralph went inside to get the clerk of the store to confirm what had been stolen from inside, and the woman started yelling at the clerk and tried to lunge at him, according to the affidavit.
Ralph stepped in front of the woman, who then spit toward the clerk, but hit Officer Ralph in the eye instead, according to the affidavit. He responded by grabbing the woman by the neck, saying she “f---ing spit on me,” and took her to the ground, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says Ralph’s body camera captured the woman’s face while his hand was around her neck and says she “is wincing and appears to be in pain as if being choked or from her head striking the ground.”
The affidavit says Ralph’s other hand moved from her arm and “appears to be bracing the hand on [the woman’s] neck.”
The sergeant at the scene intervened and told Ralph to “relax” and took Ralph’s hands off the woman, who complained about hitting her head on the pavement. She was taken to Swedish Medical Center for an evaluation and was released “without any noted substantial injury,” according to the affidavit.
She also had an outstanding felony warrant for failing to appear in a robbery case and was arrested on that case.
Written reports by the sergeant, the clerk, Ralph and the other officer at the scene all gave similar accounts that Ralph had grabbed the woman’s neck – except for Ralph’s, which said, “I reached for [the woman’s] mouth with my gloved hand. [The woman] moved backwards as I tried to cover her mouth, making my hand slip from her mouth and onto her chin.”
The sergeant wrote, “Officer Ralph grabbed [the woman’s] right arm and put his left hand around her throat and took her to the ground…”
The clerk said that Ralph “applied a chokehold,” and the other officer wrote that Ralph “had a hold on [the woman’s] neck area with one of his hands.”
According to court records, Ralph turned himself in to Glendale police and was booked, posted bond and released on Tuesday.
Sheridan Police Chief Jeffrey Martinez said in a statement Wednesday afternoon he was concerned about the incident and reported the case to the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office.
He said Officer Ralph was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigations.
“We believe in the integrity of both the criminal and administrative processes and will withhold judgment until both are completed,” Martinez said. “I want to assure our community the Sheridan Police Department is committed to providing outstanding service, transparency, and safety to the community we serve.”