Bel Air Police Chief Charles A. Moore Jr. was served with a temporary protective order filed by his estranged wife Tuesday. The order outlines several instances where Moore is accused of laying hands on and belittling her and their teenage son, dating back to 2009.
The Town of Bel Air announced via its website Wednesday that Moore had been put on paid administrative leave.
The matter began Dec. 13 when Moore’s wife called him to discuss their child, who had been caught with a vape pen, according to court documents. In her petition for the protective order, his wife wrote that she told him “she would handle it” and that Moore “did not need to intervene.”
Moore and his wife separated in 2016 and do not live at the same address, according to court documents.
Later, Moore and his adult son arrived at his wife’s residence in Jarrettsville, where Moore and his teenage son began to argue and the teen punched him, documents state.
Moore allegedly grabbed the teenager and attempted to choke him, cutting or scraping his head in the act. Moore’s adult son broke up the fight, and as Moore was leaving, his wife allegedly grabbed at a bag he was carrying. When he pulled back against her, she fell to the floor, injuring her finger, the documents state.
Moore’s attorney, Jason Silverstein, said that his client was the victim, not the aggressor. He maintained that Moore was defending himself and has marks on his face and neck from where his son struck him.
“Even if you read the allegations that are in the thing, the allegations are that the son struck him first and there is another witness who is present,” he said. “My client is trying to protect himself.”
Other incidents, including arriving unannounced to his wife’s house, sending “belittling text messages” and threatening to “bash her head,” are listed in the order.
The order states that Moore attempted to take his wife’s phone from her hands in 2016, leaving bruises, and that he pushed her into a chair after finding mouse feces in 2009.
Moore was barred from threatening, abusing, contacting and visiting his wife and teenage son. He is prohibited from going to their home or the teenager’s school, and he was compelled to relinquish his firearms, including his service weapon.
The temporary protective order is effective through Tuesday, Feb. 4, when the court is scheduled for a hearing on a final protective order.
Moore’s wife also applied for the entire case to be sealed, citing the “public office of respondent” and “minor child.”
Silverstein said the earlier allegations listed in the protective order are not representative of what really happened on those dates. Certainly, there had been verbal arguments in the past, but not physical altercations.
He also cast doubt on the fear Moore’s spouse attested to in the protective order, noting that she waited weeks to seek it.
“Those allegations are not quite what the petitioner is making them out to seem,” Silverstein said. “I am not sure what kind of fear there is on the part of the petitioner.”
Moore, reached by phone, directed requests for comment to his attorney.
Bel Air Town Administrator Jesse Bane said the town will not be conducting its own investigation because the alleged incident occurred outside its jurisdiction. Bane made the decision to suspend Moore with the permission of the town’s five commissioners.
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Moore will be paid during his leave; his annual salary is $115,662.
The next step, Bane said, is to wait for the court proceeding to finish. The town will decide what to do next based on the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing.
Bane said protective orders are easily filed. In his time as sheriff of Harford County, he heard of multiple law enforcement officials who had protective orders taken out against them.
“This is nothing unusual,” Bane said, "because the order has been issued does not mean the allegations are true.”
Voice messages left with all five members of the Bel Air Board of Commissioners were not returned as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
Moore, a lifelong Harford County resident, was appointed Bel Air’s Chief of Police in September 2015 after a lengthy career with the Maryland State Police and a stint as warden of the Harford County Detention Center under then-sheriff Bane. He voluntarily separated from the sheriff’s office in November 2014, a few weeks before Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler took office.
Deputy Chief of Police Richard J. Peschek will assume the role of acting chief during Moore’s absence, according to Bel Air’s announcement. Peschek previously served as the town’s acting police chief from July 2015 until Moore was appointed that September.