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Harford sheriff's deputy faces charge for discharging gun after traffic stop

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A Harford County sheriff's deputy, who allegedly fired his gun during an altercation following a traffic stop in early April, was charged Monday with reckless endangerment.

According to online court records, a criminal information on the single charge was filed Monday in Harford County District Court against Deputy First Class Christopher Behles, 37. Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly is listed as the complainant.

"We charged him based on the sheriff department's investigation that centered on the decision to fire his weapon," Cassilly said early Tuesday evening. "The basis of the charge is the use of the weapon."

Cassilly declined to discuss any additional details. The charge is a misdemeanor that could bring up to five years in jail upon a conviction, the state's attorney said.

Behles, who had been assigned to the Harford County Sheriff's Office's Violent Crimes Task Force, has been suspended without pay, according to Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office.

"These charges originated from the States Attorney's Office," Hopkins said via e-mail. "Specific comments will need to come from them."

The incident that led to the charge occurred around 5 p.m. on April 8. Behles was off duty and driving home on Route 23 (Norrisville Road) in an unmarked police cruiser assigned to him, according to an account given by the Sheriff's Office at the time. When he stopped behind another vehicle preparing to turn left into White Hall Road, the vehicle Behles was driving was rear-ended by a black Toyota 4Runner.

According to the Sheriff's Office account, Behles, who was in plain clothes, got out of his vehicle and displayed his badge as he went to talk with the driver of the 4Runner, later identified as William Redding Harvey V, 33, of the 1600 block of Dulaney Drive in Jarrettsville.

At the time, Hopkins of the Sheriff's Office said Behles told investigators "there was some indication he [the other driver] wasn't going to be cooperative." According to Hopkins, Behles had reason to believe Harvey might flee and warned him he would be arrested. At that point, Behles was said by Hopkins to have tried to reach into the 4Runner "to bring the suspect out of the car."

The Sheriff's Office said Harvey then allegedly tried to pull his vehicle away from the deputy, who was still at the driver's side door, and the deputy allegedly "was dragged or caught up in the door," as the vehicle drove off.

In a news release following the incident, the Sheriff's Office said Behles became "concerned for his safety and believed that he was at risk of being seriously injured or killed" and, as a result, fired his weapon. At the time, Hopkins said investigators were unsure how many shots were fired or what was hit.

"All we know is that it was fired," he said of the weapon.

The Sheriff's Office alleged that Harvey sped away on Route 23, and Behles got back into his car and gave chase. The 4Runner turned onto Route 439 and entered Baltimore County, where the driver lost control of his vehicle, rolling it over as he tried to turn into a side street. The driver then allegedly tried to run away on foot and was chased by Behles, who caught up to him and subdued him at gunpoint, while waiting for backup to arrive.

Behles was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson where he was treated for minor injuries. He was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation of the incident.

Harvey, who suffered minor injuries and was treated at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, was charged by criminal warrant with second-degree assault, resisting arrest, failing to obey a lawful order and obstructing and hindering. He was released from jail the following day after posting $3,000 bond, according to court records.

Harvey's trial is scheduled for June 4 at 8:30 a.m. in District Court in Bel Air. Behles' trial is scheduled for July 2 at 8:30 a.m., also in District Court in Bel Air.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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