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A former Van Zandt County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy was sentenced today to 44 months in prison for violating an arrestee’s civil rights by using excessive force against him.
According to court documents, Steven “Craig” Shelton, 62, previously pleaded guilty and admitted that on or about Sept. 21, 2021, while acting as the Chief Deputy and second-in-command of the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, he repeatedly struck a handcuffed and compliant arrestee in the face. Shelton admitted that his acts, which occurred in front of several other officers in the Rolling Oaks area of Wills Point, Texas, caused bodily injury to the arrestee. Shelton admitted that he hit the arrestee because Shelton was frustrated, even though Shelton knew that there was no legitimate, law enforcement need to use force against the arrestee.
“This defendant abused his authority as a law enforcement officer by violently assaulting and injuring a handcuffed arrestee, violating the victim’s civil rights and the public’s trust,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable those officers who abuse their authority, wherever such abuses occur.”
“It is an unacceptable abuse of authority for a police officer to strike a handcuffed arrestee who poses no threat,” said U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs for the Eastern District of Texas. “Public trust in law enforcement is eroded when officers do not follow the laws they are sworn to enforce. While recognizing that a vast majority of law enforcement officers protect the constitutional rights of individuals on a daily basis, the U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to protecting the public from officers who violate those rights.”
“The FBI regards the protection of civil rights as one of our most solemn responsibilities,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “We will continue to investigate any law enforcement officer who violates these rights, and pursue justice for victims.”
The FBI Dallas Field Office investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracey Batson for the Eastern District of Texas and Special Litigation Counsel Kathryn E. Gilbert and Trial Attorney Matthew Tannenbaum of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.