Former chief deputy avoids excessive force prosecution through deal with Van Zandt County DA
VAN ZANDT COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - A former Van Zandt County chief deputy will not face prosecution in connection with allegations of excessive force as part of a deal with the district attorney’s office.
Two potential charges against Craig Shelton were resolved by entering into a pretrial intervention contract, Van Zandt County District Attorney Tonda Curry confirmed. The contract included a permanent surrender of Shelton’s peace officer license.
A representative with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) confirmed the permanent surrender of Shelton’s license on Thursday.
Curry said her office first received written evidence of an incident of excessive force against an inmate involving Shelton in Nov. 2021, which led to an investigation by the Texas Rangers office. Nearly two months later, Shelton admitted he had struck a handcuffed individual in the face without justification.
An investigation that followed led to criminal indictments for Van Zandt County Sheriff Steven Hendrix, current Chief Deputy Jerry Wood, and Sgt. Blake Snell. The three are accused of making a false statement to law enforcement regarding the excessive force case against Shelton. The three are charged with Class B misdemeanor false statements to a peace officer.
A law firm representing Sheriff Hendrix released a statement calling the charges “baseless”, adding they looked forward to defending the allegations in court.
Shelton was a member of the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office for one year, spanning from Jan. 1 2021 to Jan. 14, 2022, according to his TCOLE personnel file. He previously served in a reserve role with the Smith County Constable Precinct 1′s Office in 2019 and as chief of police with the Whitehouse Police Department until July 2015.
Shelton resigned from the Whitehouse Police Department in 2015 following an incident involving an officer’s estranged wife, Jessica Johnson. Shelton was charged with assault for “grabbing and pushing her” during the visit. A lawsuit later filed by Johnson claimed Shelton touched her chest, grabbed her head, and groped other private areas.
The assault charges were later dismissed due to false testimony. The incident led to several lawsuits filed against the City of Whitehouse, including one filed by Johnson’s husband, Leland Johnson, and Whitehouse officers Curtis Dinger and Scott Bradley.
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