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Former Hagerstown Police Officer
Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Charges

Defendant Threatened African American Hagerstown High School Students and City Council Member While Serving as a Boonesboro Police Officer

BALTIMORE –– Jeffrey Shifler, 42, of Maugansville, Md., plead guilty today to a two count criminal indictment charging him with interference with attendance at public schools and interference with housing, announced Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland. The charges stem from threats Shifler made against African American students at two Hagerstown high schools and against an African American Hagerstown City Council member.

“Any threat of violence based on bigotry is abhorrent. It is even worse when the threat is made by an officer against kids,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim. “The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting any individual who illegally perpetuates hatred.”

“When a law enforcement officer makes racist threats against government officials and school students, it is a threat to the very fabric of our society,” said U.S. Attorney Rosenstein. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes and make certain that the criminals who commit them are punished.”

According to the statement of facts provided to the court as part of the plea, Shifler was a police officer with the Hagerstown Police Department for about 16 years. On Nov. 3, 2003, Shifler was terminated for cause and then became employed as a police officer with the Boonesboro Police Department. On Nov. 29, 2005, Shifler anonymously called the Washington County Board of Education and stated, “There are two guns at North [Hagerstown] High and two guns at South [Hagerstown] High. We’re going to blow the niggers away.” The school was locked down, limiting access into and out of the school as well as student and staff mobility within the school, resulting in substantial interference with public school operations.

On Jan. 9, 2006, Shifler anonymously called North Hagerstown High School and falsely reported the presence of guns in the school. On Jan. 10, 2006, Shifler anonymously called South Hagerstown High School, threatening to take African-American hostages and kill them. On Jan. 24, 2006, Shifler anonymously called E. Russell Hicks Middle School in Hagerstown and said, “David and Jimmy have a .22 in their locker and are going to use it on teachers, then they are going to go to Western Heights [Middle School] and use it on Rupenthal [the school principal],” or words to that effect. On all three occasions, the schools were locked down, resulting in substantial interference with public school operations.

Shifler further admitted that on Jan. 31, 2006, he anonymously called the home of Hagerstown City Council member Alesia Parson-McBean, stating in part “We’re the KKK. We’re about to take you down and burn your house. The end is near, nigger.” Ms. Parson-McBean contacted “911” for emergency assistance.

In 2004 and 2005, Ms. Parson-McBean and her supporters, who are members of the African-American community in Hagerstown, received anonymous, racially-charged letters from Shifler. The letters, one of which was written on photocopied Hagerstown Police Department letterhead, threatened harm to Ms. Parson-McBean and her supporters if she did not withdraw from the City Council election.

Shifler faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine on each count. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled sentencing for Dec. 8, 2006. Shifler remains in federal custody.

Assistant Attorney General Kim and U.S. Attorney Rosenstein commended the investigative work performed by the FBI. Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Kim thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning, Trial Attorney Ryan Morrison and Senior Litigation Counsel Mark Blumberg of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, who are prosecuting the case.