Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman has completed his review of a June 28 incident in Lancaster city that involved an officer deploying a Taser on a man on South Prince Street.
First, we must note our review of the incident focused on whether criminal charges are warranted, per law, in the matter.
District Attorney Stedman does not have authority over internal policy or discipline specific to any department in Lancaster County.
Regarding the Tasing of Mr. Sean Williams: Particularly given the law and internal policies in place at the time, and the fact that the officer’s actions were within the scope of those policies, Officer Bernot did not commit a crime.
Specifically, to support a criminal charge, there must be actual evidence, rather than mere speculation, and supportable in a court of law – establishing that Officer Bernot had a criminal mens rea, or intent to commit a crime, when he used his Taser. Mens rea, per legal definition, is a person’s thinking and/or intention/purpose at the time of an incident.
Upon reviewing all relevant policies, reports/information collected in the case to include video/audio recordings, this office concludes Officer Bernot acted within the scope of department policy regarding use of force, thus there is not sustainable evidence to establish the officer intended to commit a crime. Lancaster city officials have previously stated his actions followed policy and we concur.
During our thorough review for criminal conduct, we discovered what we feel are critical shortcomings in department policy as it existed at the time of the Taser incident.
I have articulated my concerns and those shortcomings in a detailed memorandum which was sent this week to Lancaster city officials and the police department. I also provided in the memorandum an assessment of the police interaction with Mr. Williams.
Additionally, I have verbalized my concerns to members of the police department during ongoing conversations.
Regarding the memorandum, at this time our office is not releasing it to the public as it discusses, in detail, the department’s internal operation procedures and policies. However, we leave it to the discretion of the city and its police department as to whether they wish to make the document public.
We remain focused on advancing community-police relations in Lancaster County, so my office will not be having a press conference or doing additional interviews on the June 28 incident. This release of information encompasses our review of the matter.