Steven “Craig” Shelton, 61, admitted today in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas to using excessive force on an arrestee in violation of his civil rights. The statement was made by Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno of the FBI’s Dallas Field Division, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston for the Eastern District of Texas.
Shelton stated during the plea hearing that he struck the face of an arrestee who was in handcuffs and cooperating on or about September 21, 2021, while serving as the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office’s Chief Deputy and second-in-command. Shelton also acknowledged that his actions in the Rolling Oaks neighbourhood in Wills Point, Texas, in front of a number of other police, resulted in the arrestee’s physical harm. Shelton acknowledged hitting the suspect during the arrest out of exasperation, even though she knew there was no justification for force on the part of the police.
“Those who hold leadership positions inside sheriff’s offices violate the public trust when they abuse their official authority and position to carry out assaults on people detained in their custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Clarke. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable law enforcement officers, at every level, who abuse their authority by using excessive force to deprive people of their constitutional rights.”
“It is the undisputed duty of a law enforcement officer to protect and serve,” said U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston. “Public trust in law enforcement is eroded when officers do not follow the laws they are sworn to enforce, and my office will continue to hold those accountable who think they are above the law.”
“Officers who use excessive force break the trust of their communities and their oath to protect and serve,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Violating the civil rights of an arrestee is a clear abuse of authority and will not be tolerated by the FBI. We are dedicated to upholding the constitutional rights of everyone and expect those in law enforcement to do the same.”
The defendant faces a 44-month prison term as a result of his guilty plea and the terms of the plea agreement.
A sentencing date will be set after the US Probation Office completes its presentence investigation.
The Dallas Field Division of the FBI investigated this case. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Kathryn E. Gilbert and Matthew Tannenbaum of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracey Batson for the Eastern District of Texas.