Sheridan, CO – The Sheridan Police Department released bodycam video that showed the altercation that led to an officer being charged with second-degree assault for allegedly using a chokehold on a shoplifting suspect in September (video below).
The arrest affidavit said the incident occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 3 at the 7-Eleven located in the 3400-block of South Federal Boulevard, KUSA reported.
Sheridan Police Officer Shawn Ralph and a fellow officer saw a woman “acting suspiciously” inside the convenience store and the store owner motioned to the officers that the suspect had stolen something, according to the charging documents.
The woman – later identified as 25-year-old Benni Montano – resisted arrest but officers managed to take her into custody and secure handcuffs, KDVR reported.
The store owner told officers that Montano had stolen a Coke and a package of Nutter Butter cookies.
The video showed that the woman jumped up from the curb and tried to lunge at him.
Bodycam showed that Officer Ralph stepped between the suspect and the store owner and then Montano spat at him and hit the officer in the face.
Charging document showed that Officer Ralph was struck by the spit on his face near his left eye.
The video showed that Officer Ralph reacted quickly and grabbed the woman in the neck area and then pushed her to the ground.
Charging documents alleged that Officer Ralph’s hand was around the woman’s neck for five seconds and she “appears to be in pain as if being choked,” KUSA reported.
The video showed that was when a sergeant who was on the scene told Officer Ralph to relax and removed his hands from the suspect.
Montano complained to officers that she had hit her head when she was taken down so she was transported to the hospital to be evaluated, KUSA reported.
Charging documents said the suspect had no visible injuries and was booked into jail on a warrant out of Denver.
Montano was also charged with four misdemeanors and two petty offenses related to assaulting a first responder and shoplifting, KDVR reported.
Sheridan Police Chief Jeffrey Martinez said in a statement that the sergeant who was on the scene reported Officer Ralph’s altercation with Montano to command-level personnel, KUSA reported.
“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 statement read. “The officer was immediately placed on Administrative Leave pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigation as is standard procedure.”
Colorado lawmakers passed a statute that outlawed chokeholds after George Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis police in 2020, KMGH reported.
Officer Ralph was charged with one count of attempted second-degree assault – strangulation in the heat of passion in September – under the new law.
He turned himself in to the Glendale Police Department, KMGH reported.
“We believe in the integrity of both the criminal and administrative processes and will withhold judgment until both are completed,” Chief Martinez said. “I want to assure our community the Sheridan Police Department is committed to providing outstanding service, transparency, and safety to the community we serve.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content and Obscene Language: