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Officer accused of putting theft suspect in chokehold

The officer put his hands around her neck for about five seconds after she spit in his face, the affidavit says.
Generic photo of handcuffs

SHERIDAN, Colorado — Editor's note: A jury acquitted Shawn Ralph in February 2023. Read more here.

A Sheridan police officer has been arrested for second-degree assault after he put a shoplifting suspect in a chokehold after she spit in his face, according to an affidavit for his arrest.

The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 3 at the 7-Eleven store at 3495 S. Federal Blvd., where shoplifting is an ongoing issue, the affidavit says.

Officer Shawn Ralph and another officer observed the female suspect before making contact, the affidavit says. They believed that the woman was "acting suspiciously" and was likely to steal from the store, where it's a frequent issue, according to the document.

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As they approached the woman, the affidavit says, the store owner motioned to the officers that she had indeed taken items without paying.

She resisted but the officers were able to get her into handcuffs and she then sat on the curb nearby, the affidavit says. At one point, while still handcuffed, she got up and moved toward the store owner in "an aggressive manner," the affidavit says.

The officers intervened and during that confrontation, the women spit and the saliva hit Ralph's face near his left eye, the affidavit says. The woman is then pushed to the ground and body camera footage shows Ralph's hand around her neck, according to the affidavit. His hand remains around her neck for about five seconds, the affidavit says.

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In that footage, the woman's face is visible while Ralph's hand is around her neck and she "appears to be in pain as if being choked," the document says.

A sergeant at the scene intervened, according to the document, and told Ralph to "relax" while removing Ralph's hands from the woman.

She made a complaint about her head hurting due to it hitting the pavement and was taken to the hospital for observation but was later released without any significant injuries, the affidavit says. She was however wanted on a warrant out of Denver and was later booked into jail.

Credit: Glendale Police
Shawn Ralph

Ralph turned himself into the Glendale Police Department and was immediately placed on administrative leave, according to a statement from Sheridan Police Chief Jeffrey Martinez. His statement is in full below.

On September 3, 2021, at approximately 1:30 a.m., members of the Sheridan Police Department handled a shoplifting incident in the 3400 block of South Federal Boulevard.  An adult female was detained after being identified as the party who had allegedly committed the offense.

While officers were completing their investigation, the female assaulted a Sheridan Police Officer by spitting in his eyes and face. The officer reacted to the assault by allegedly grabbing the female party around the front of her neck and forcing her to the ground. Other officers who were present, including a supervisor, took immediate physical action to intervene in the incident and deescalated the situation.

Medical attention was sought for the female who was later cleared at the hospital with no apparent injuries. The supervisor and other officers present at the scene took swift action and reported the incident to command-level personnel at the Sheridan Police Department. The officers then documented their observations in written reports.  

As the Chief of Police of the Sheridan Police Department, I was concerned with the incident and immediately initiated an investigation and promptly presented the case to the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office.

The officer was immediately placed on Administrative Leave pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigation as is standard procedure. Body worn cameras were in use during the incident and release of that footage is subject to the requirements of state statue.   

We believe in the integrity of both the criminal and administrative processes and will withhold judgment until both are completed.  I want to assure our community the Sheridan Police Department is committed to providing outstanding service, transparency, and safety to the community we serve.




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