PHOENIX (AP) — A police officer in metro Phoenix was charged Thursday with aggravated assault for his actions during an encounter four years ago in which he is accused of shooting a handcuffed man in the testicles with a stun gun.
Glendale Officer Matthew Schneider, who has since retired, faces three felony assault charges stemming from the July 2017 encounter in a motel parking lot.
Police say Johnny Wheatcroft, who was repeatedly shot with stun guns during the encounter, and his family were passengers in a car that was suspected of a traffic violation. Though Wheatcroft was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest, the case was later dismissed at the request of prosecutors.
The city of Glendale has acknowledged in court records that its officers used stun guns on Wheatcroft, but denied Schneider used a Taser to shoot Wheatcroft in the testicles. Glendale police have said Schneider instead zapped Wheatcroft on the thigh as the officer pulled on Wheatcroft’s shorts during a struggle.
The charges, first reported by ABC15 (KNXV-TV), don’t mention stun guns, but allege that Schneider caused physical injuries to Wheatcroft while he was restrained. Wheatcroft had previously filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force, wrongful arrest and retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.
Court records didn’t list a lawyer who represents Schneider on the assault charges, and there was no listed phone number for Schneider.
In a statement, the Glendale Police Department said Maricopa County prosecutors had previously declined to charge the officers and added that Schneider was disciplined in response to an internal investigation. The assault charges against Schneider were filed by Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office.
“The city will fully cooperate with any requests made by the Attorney General’s Office,” the police department statement said. “The Glendale Police Department works tirelessly to maintain the respect of the community they serve.”
Video footage from the encounter shows officers asking for identification for the passengers in the car.
When Wheatcroft asked why officers needed IDs, Schneider raised the possibility of taking Wheatcroft to the police station. The officer also said he saw Wheatcroft stuffing something in a backpack and in the car’s seats.
With his stun gun placed on Wheatcroft’s shoulder, Schneider asked if Wheatcroft was going to fight. Wheatcroft responded no.
Later, another officer shot Wheatcraft with a stun gun in the back as officers were trying to get him out of the car. Wheatcroft’s wife and two children yelled as they urged officers to stop.
While Wheatcroft was sitting on the asphalt and leaning against the car, Schneider shot his stun gun at Wheatcroft’s chest, according to the lawsuit. The police department has said the chest shot with the stun gun occurred after the wife assaulted the officer.
The lawsuit alleges Schneider later pulled down Wheatcroft’s shorts and used his stun gun to shoot Wheatcroft in the testicles.
Wheatcroft screamed in agony as officers removed the stun gun’s prongs from his skin, prompting Schneider to put his stun gun on Wheatcroft’s penis, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit quotes Schneider as saying, “Keep fighting and you’re going to get it again! You want it again? Shut your mouth!” Schneider said, using profanity as he told Wheatcroft that he was done messing around.
The police department previously said there was no proof that Schneider put a stun gun on Wheatcroft’s penis.
The lawsuit said Wheatcroft, his wife and their two kids were traumatized by the encounter.