Charges dismissed against 62-year-old homeless man stunned by Rock Hill Police

adys@heraldonline.comApril 12, 2013 

There was no court hearing this time. No video played in court showing Rock Hill Police officers using a stun gun on a 62-year-old homeless man.

But Friday, almost six months after Ronald Chason was zapped with a stun gun by officers for allegedly resisting arrest, Rock Hill city prosecutors dropped the remaining charges against Chason of damage to property and hitchhiking.

Yet the dismissal does not mean that police or prosecutors admit that the officers should not have stunned Chason in the first place.

Chason, who has no criminal record – a fact that was checked by the two Rock Hill officers Nov. 24 even before the stun gun was used – spent three months in jail before a judge in February threw out the felony resisting charge. Chason was then freed on a personal recognizance bond because he had spent so long in jail and state court rules demanded that he be released.

Friday’s dismissal means all charges against Chason are gone.

“This is the right ending for what was a sordid affair,” said York County Deputy Chief Public Defender B.J. Barrowclough, Chason’s court-appointed lawyer. “Clearly, there was no cause for arrest in the first place. It was a roustabout. It was outrageous.”

The charges against Chason were dismissed with the right to restore within six months, said Anna Miller, the Rock Hill prosecutor in charge of the case. Provided that Chason has no incidents with police for the next six months, the arrest will be expunged from his record.

The dismissal was “the right thing to do” considering Chason had no other charges or incidents, and the officers involved were in agreement, she said.

However, Miller, who reviewed the videotape, said Friday that the dismissal “in no way” means “anything was done improperly.”

A pair of officers claimed that Chason struck one of them in the face before they tackled him and used the stun gun on him.

Officers stated in a police report that they were checking on Chason’s welfare on Nov. 24 as he sat on his belongings along an Interstate 77 entrance ramp near Dave Lyle Boulevard. The officers used the stun gun on Chason after he argued over whether hitchhiking was illegal.

The scuffle, caught on the police cruiser videotape, showed officers saying that they would take Chason to jail if he did not stop arguing over hitchhiking. Officers used the stun gun after claiming Chason resisted arrest.

A Rock Hill Police Department spokesman said Friday that the officers acted “within policy” for using the stun gun.

“As we reviewed it, the officers had the right to step out and make the arrest, he resisted, and the officers were within policy using the Taser in affecting the arrest,” said Mark Bollinger, Rock Hill Police executive officer.

Barrowclough, Chason’s lawyer, scoffed that the use of the stun gun was anything except “brutality” and “clearly an over-reaction by the officers.”

“They claimed they stopped to check on his welfare, but they never asked him about his welfare, didn’t help him and then used a Taser on him,” Barrowclough said.

Chason, from central North Carolina, was listed on the police report as 5 feet 6 inches tall and 130 pounds.

If Chason had been convicted of resisting arrest, he could have faced up to 10 years in prison. The damage to property and hitchhiking charges are both misdemeanors that carry up to 30 days in jail for convictions.

Hitchhiking is illegal in South Carolina – but Barrowclough argued that Chason was not hitchhiking, but sitting, when he was approached by police. Since Chason was not hitchhiking, he could not be arrested on that charge regardless of whether Chason argued that hitchhiking was legal.

After the judge threw out the resisting charge, police wanted county prosecutors to seek a direct indictment on the resisting charge. County prosecutors declined.

See the video at heraldonline.com.

Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 adys@heraldonline.com

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