SHERIDAN, Colo. (CBS4) – A 50-year-old police officer with the City of Sheridan, Shawn Ralph, has been charged with felony second degree assault after he allegedly choked a shoplifting suspect who he said spit in his eye.

Shawn Ralph

(credit: CBS)

The incident took place Sept. 3 at a 7-Eleven store at 3495 South Federal Boulevard, according to court documents obtained by CBS4.

Ralph and other officers say they approached a woman, Benni Montano, suspicious that she had shoplifted items from the convenience store. The store owner said Montano had stolen several items from the store.

She was handcuffed but officers said she was resistant and attempted to spit on the store owner, but her saliva allegedly hit Ralph in the eye.

Benni Montano (credit: CBS)

“Officer Ralph then reaches out and up with his left hand, grabbing Montano by the neck. Officer Ralph can be heard not giving verbal commands but instead saying, ‘F—–g spit on me,” according to an affidavit in the case. Another officer wrote “Officer Ralph grabbed Montano’s right arm and put his left hand around her throat and took her to the ground while saying, ‘F—–g spit on me.'”

The woman — who had an active felony warrant for her arrest — said she hit her head on the ground and received medical treatment.

In a statement, Ralph said “To prevent continuous spitting and contamination, I reached for Benni’s mouth with my gloved hand. Benni moved backward as I tried to cover her mouth, making my hand slip from her mouth and onto her chin.”

Court records show that while the incident occurred Sept. 3, Ralph was arrested on Sept. 14 and was released on bond.

Sheridan Police Chief Jeffrey Martinez released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

On September 3, 2021, at approximately 1:30 a.m., members of the Sheridan Police Department handled a shoplifting incident in the 3400 block of South Federal Boulevard. An adult female was detained after being identified as the party who had allegedly committed the offense. While officers were completing their investigation, the female assaulted a Sheridan Police Officer by spitting in his eyes and face.

The officer reacted to the assault by allegedly grabbing the female party around the front of her neck and forcing her to the ground. Other officers who were present, including a supervisor, took immediate physical action to intervene in the incident and deescalated the situation.

Medical attention was sought for the female who was later cleared at the hospital with no apparent injuries. The supervisor and other officers present at the scene took swift action and reported the incident to command level personnel at the Sheridan Police Department. The officers then documented their observations in written reports.

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 officer was immediately placed on Administrative Leave pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigation as is standard procedure. Body worn cameras were in use during the incident and release of that footage is subject to the requirements of state statue.

We believe in the integrity of both the criminal and administrative processes and will withhold judgement until both are completed. I want to assure our community the Sheridan Police Department is committed to providing outstanding service, transparency, and safety to the community we serve.

Brian Maass