Harford sheriff's deputy accused of firing gun now charged with assault

A Harford County sheriff's deputy, previously charged with reckless endangerment from an altercation in which he discharged his service weapon during an April traffic stop, was indicted last week on two assault charges.

A grand jury on July 2 indicted DFC Christopher Behles on first- and second-degree assault in connection with the April 8 incident, according to court records.

The State's Attorney's Office took the case to the grand jury, which determined the charges met the criteria of committing an assault with a firearm, Harford State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly said Monday. He declined to discuss the case further.

No statement of charges was available from either the Circuit Court or District Court, where the original reckless endangerment case was filed as a criminal information, with Cassilly listed as the complainant, on April 29.

After the initial charge was filed, Cassilly said it was based on the information that Behles had discharged his firearm during the April 8 traffic stop in Norrisville that ultimately led to a chase and the arrest of a Jarrettsville man.

Of the two latest charges against Behles, first-degree assault is a felony that can carry up to 25 years in prison upon a conviction. Second-degree assault is a misdemeanor with maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine. Reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Behles, 37, was initially suspended with pay after he was charged in April. His law enforcement powers remain suspended, but Behles continues to work for the Sheriff's Office in an administrative capacity with pay, Sheriff's Office spokesman Edward Hopkins said Monday. He said Sheriff Jesse Bane would not comment on the Behles case.

Behles' lawyer, Shaun Owens, declined to discuss the case until the trial. An arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 5 at 1:30 p.m. in Circuit Court.

Behles had been assigned to the Harford County Sheriff's Office's Violent Crimes Task Force. On April 8, Behles was allegedly rear-ended by a black Toyota 4Runner driven by William Redding Harvey V, 33, of the 1600 block of Dulaney Drive in Jarrettsville, while the off-duty officer was driving home in an unmarked police cruiser assigned to him, the Sheriff's Office said at the time.

Behles, who was in plain clothes, then got out of his vehicle and displayed his badge as he spoke with the driver. He also told investigators "there was some indication he [the driver] wasn't going to be cooperative," Hopkins said a few hours after the incident, adding that Behles told investigators he had reason to believe Harvey might flee and warned him he would be arrested.

Behles then allegedly tried to reach into the 4Runner "to bring the suspect out of the car," Hopkins wrote in a news release at the time. Harvey allegedly tried to drive away, and the deputy allegedly "was dragged or caught up in the door" as Harvey drove off, the release continued. Behles allegedly fired his weapon because he was "concerned for his safety and believed that he was at risk of being seriously injured or killed," Hopkins wrote.

Shortly after the incident, Hopkins said investigators were unsure how many shots were fired or what was hit. On Tuesday, Hopkins said he had received no further information to indicate anything had changed in connection with that original statement from the Sheriff's Office.

After Harvey sped away on Route 23, the Sheriff's Office said at the time, Behles got back into his car and chased the 4Runner down Route 439 and into Baltimore County, Harvey lost control of his vehicle, rolling it over as he tried to turn into a side street. Harvey then allegedly tried to run away and was chased by Behles, who caught up to him and subdued him at gunpoint until back-up arrived, the Sheriff's Office said.

Behles was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, where he was treated for minor injuries.

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. His trial in District Court is scheduled for Aug. 27 at 8:30 a.m.

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