Sheridan police officer charged with assault

Shawn Ralph arrested for allegedly choking shoplifting suspect

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Sheridan police officer Shawn Ralph has been charged with second-degree assault after allegedly choking a woman accused of shoplifting while he was on duty. 

According to a statement from Sheridan Police Chief Jeffrey Martinez, officers detained the woman at a 7-Eleven store in the 3400 block of South Federal Boulevard north of West Hampden Avenue on Sept. 3 around 1:30 a.m.

An affidavit obtained by local news outlets said Ralph and another officer believed the woman was acting suspiciously. The store owner indicated to the officers that the woman had taken items without paying and, according to the affidavit, officers handcuffed the woman after some resistance.

Officers sat the woman outside on a curb, but she eventually got up and walked toward the store owner, prompting the officers to intervene, the affidavit said. It said the woman spat and saliva landed on Ralph's face.

Ralph then grabbed the woman by the throat, choking her, and forced her to the ground, the affidavit said. His hand was around her neck for about five seconds, according to the affidavit.

The woman was taken to a hospital but was found not to have been injured.

"Other officers who were present, including a supervisor, took immediate physical action to intervene in the incident and deescalated the situation," Martinez, the police chief, said in a statement.

According to department spokesperson Amy Woodward, officers immediately reported the incident to higher-ups while on scene.

Ralph was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 3 and a department investigation was opened that day. On Sept. 8, the case was brought to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office  and Ralph was arrested Sept. 14, Woodward said.

Ralph is currently free on bond, police said. He is slated to appear in court Sept. 28.

When asked if Ralph had ever been involved in other instances of excessive force, Woodward said the department is unable to release that information "since it pertains to personnel matters."

Body cameras were in use during the incident. Woodward said the department is currently in talks with the city attorney and will release the footage when legally required to do so.

According to Colorado state Senate Bill 20-217, the sweeping police reform act that was signed into law in June 2020, if a complaint of officer misconduct is filed, the department must release to the public all unedited dash camera or body camera footage within 21 days.

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