A Baltimore police officer has been charged in Harford County with multiple counts of assault after an investigation uncovered a year-long pattern of alleged abuse, including putting a gun to his wife’s head and threatening to kill her, according to Maryland court records and charging documents.
Matthew Chrest, 36, of Abingdon was arrested Wednesday. The allegations surfaced Aug. 1, court records show, when Chrest told police he lost his temper because he was exhausted from working so much police overtime that he “had barely slept in a week.” Bel Air police wrote that Chrest suffered a “mental episode” that included punching himself in the face.
Chrest said he was in a panic because the Baltimore Police Department was finally going to suspend him, more than two years after he had been charged and convicted of drunken driving. Court records show Chrest has been on court-ordered probation since 2018, even as he was patrolling Baltimore’s streets and making arrests.
Charging documents from the August incident allege nearly a year of dangerous and unstable episodes involving Chrest, including one that kicked off when he accused his wife of not properly preparing his medication.
Chrest was taken to the Klein Family Crisis Center in Bel Air, investigators wrote, adding that his wife told them of a series of assaults and a mental crisis so bad that a family friend helped her hide three of his weapons, according to the documents.
Chrest “stated he did not want to harm himself or anyone else but wanted to seek help before things escalated,” the charging documents state. “That, however, was not the only time things got out of hand in the officer’s personal life."
Chrest could not be reached for comment this week. His attorney, Karen Jones, said in a text that he maintains his innocence and “has devoted his entire adult life to serving the state of Maryland both in law enforcement and in volunteer firefighting.”
The most recent episode came as Chrest was about to begin his suspension, according to documents, meaning Baltimore police would take away his gun, his pay and his ability to work lucrative overtime shifts. The strain of potentially losing his job sent him into a frenzy, the charging documents allege.
Chrest’s arrest came the same week that state legislators debated revamping or scrapping the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a decades-old law that prevents officers from being fired, even if they are arrested for seriously felonies, until after the criminal cases and ensuing internal investigations have concluded.
Baltimore police said Thursday that the lengthy internal investigative process kept the suspension from happening sooner. Officials would not say how long Chrest’s initial suspension was, but he would still have been suspended this week.
He is now facing a second suspension without pay following his arrest Wednesday, according to police.
“The Baltimore Police Department is aware of the arrest of Officer Matthew Chrest in Harford County,” Lindsey Eldridge, Baltimore police spokesperson, said in a statement Thursday. “Due to his arrest he has been suspended without pay, and the department has opened an internal investigation.”
Chrest is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, four counts of second-degree assault, two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of using a firearm in a crime of violence, according to documents filed in Harford County District Court.
Court records depict a deteriorating situation over the past year, including alleged threats to kill himself, his wife and her sister on St. Patrick’s Day, after Chrest punched himself in the face and allegedly shoved his wife.
“Chrest pulled a handgun out of the nightstand drawer and pointed it at [his wife and her sister] at which point he said he would kill them and himself,” the police report said, adding one victim told police, “Chrest said he was killing us all to make it easier.”
Chrest’s wife begged her sister to not call police. The sister told police that she was afraid Chrest would kill his wife, so they called a friend, who came over and helped hide Chrest’s weapons. Chrest’s wife went upstairs to console him, the sister told police.
“She said eventually Matthew Chrest came downstairs and sat down for dinner like nothing ever happened,” the Bel Air police charging document said.
Chrest’s wife told The Sun that the abuse lasted far longer than indicated in the arrest report, and that she lived in fear of him. She also said she was surprised that the Baltimore police department put him back on the job while he was still on probation for the DUI. It was one month before the first assault mentioned in the Bel Air charging documents.
“Out of nowhere we get a call in October saying ‘we are scheduling you to go back on the street,’” said his wife, who The Sun is not naming because she was a victim of an alleged assault.
The records also depict his wife repeatedly trying to help him and keeping quiet about the abuse out of fear he would kill her and to help him preserve his job as a police officer. She prepared his medication — the report did not specify the type — because “he over medicates himself.”
When she tried to leave the relationship, he threatened to kill her and assaulted her, at one point elbowing her and bloodying her face, the charging documents alleged.
A Jan. 22 incident involved Chrest screaming and throwing objects around the bedroom, court documents state, while his wife recorded the argument on her phone.
He tried to grab the device, hitting and threatening to kill her, before shoving her off the bed and flipping a bench on top of her, according to the documents. Chrest’s wife said she was scared and did not want to be married anymore, the records show.
Matthew Chrest then stated the only way she was leaving the marriage was in a body bag, before going into the closet for a gun, the documents allege.
His wife heard the gun load, and she ran downstairs, according to the documents.
At the front door, she heard Chrest close the closet door; he followed her, crying and apologizing, saying “he could not believe he almost hurt her,” the documents state.
Less than two months later came the St. Patrick’s Day incident.
A final protective order against Chrest, filed by his wife, was issued Aug. 13, according to court documents.
The Morning Sun
Chrest joined the department on June 21, 2006, and his salary for fiscal 2020 was $81,795.