WATCH: Two Shelton Officers Fired Won’t Face Criminal Charges After Beating Homeless Man

November 13, 2017

The Mason County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Monday declined to press charges against two Shelton police officers who repeatedly struck, pepper sprayed and used a stun gun on a man who had been sleeping on a staircase behind a homeless shelter in May.

The decision runs counter to advice from Thurston County Sheriff’s Office investigators, who in July recommended assault charges after concluding the use of force that left 25-year-old Nicholas Heflin with a broken nose, eye injuries and broken bones in his face “was not necessary or reasonable.”

Earlier this month, the two officers, Justin Doherty and Matt Dickinson, were fired by the department after an internal investigation into the event, which was captured in part on the officers’ body cameras.

Michael Dorcy, the Mason County Prosecutor, said his office solicited advice from use-of-force and training experts who believed criminal charges weren’t warranted.

In a letter to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Dorcy said he questioned some of the decision making by the officers but said their actions weren’t inconsistent with training or unreasonable.

Dorcy wrote, “The burden of proof cannot be met to sustain criminal assault charges beyond all reasonable doubt in court.”

Heflin plans to file a roughly $15 million civil claim against the City of Shelton in the case by Tuesday evening, said his attorney Jeanette Boothe. Boothe, who runs her own Shelton-based firm, said Heflin was “quite emotional about the fact that (the police officers) were not going to be criminally charged.”

Boothe said she is exploring whether other legal options against the officers are possible, such as a federal criminal investigation.

“We think this is an egregious assault on this young man,” Boothe said. “And he’s certainly going to have lasting results from it.”

The two officers could not be immediately reached for comment. Their lawyer, Alan E. Harvey, told The News Tribune and The Olympian on Tuesday that his clients maintain they “acted within the training they have received at the Shelton Police Department, and acted within policy, and that they committed no crimes.”

“In short, Mr. Dorcy got it right, didn’t rush to judgment, and he didn’t succumb to public pressure to make a snap decision charging a crime until the investigation was completed,” Harvey wrote in an email to the two newspapers. “Unfortunately, the Chief of Police did succumb to public pressure, and, as a result, two officers were unjustly terminated.”

Dorcy and Shelton Police chief Darrin Moody were not immediate available for comment.

Heflin and Doherty are white, according to Shelton police and public records. Dickinson was identified in July as mixed race by police, who offered no further elaboration.

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