(UPDATED July 23, 2015 at 9:10 am CT; update corrects statement by city attorney) WHITEHOUSE — A former Whitehouse police officer has appealed his termination for his role in a May incident involving the city’s police chief.
City Attorney Keith Mayo said he hopes to have a hearing on Aug. 3 to give former Whitehouse police officer Shawn Johnson and his attorney the right to voice their appeal to the city’s decision to terminate him.
Mayo said he received a letter of appeal regarding Johnson’s May 17 termination. A May 14 incident at Johnson’s home resulted in his termination. Johnson’s wife accused Whitehouse Police Chief Craig Shelton of assaulting her that night. Shelton was indicted for Class A misdemeanor assault charges.
Johnson confronted Shelton that night and is accused of attacking the police chief. He was terminated for violating policies and procedures after an independent, non-criminal investigation showed he attacked Shelton and incited other employees to commit acts of violence against Shelton, as well as City Manager Kevin Huckabee and a city IT contractor, who also were said to have visited Mrs. Johnson’s home.
Joe Tooley, Johnson’s attorney, wrote his client should not have been terminated for reacting the way he did.
“Officer Johnson reacted negatively as would any gentleman to these reported facts,” Tooley wrote. “He regrets his reaction and his words, mere words in contrast to the actions of your suspended police chief and your city manager and has expressed that regret during your internal investigation. What has thus far been ignored is that Johnson did not act and took no affirmative steps as many others might have, toward the perpetrators of this outrage.”
Mayo said he hopes to have the hearing on August 3 to hear Johnson's reasons for the appeal and why he believes the decision to terminate him should be reversed.
JOHNSON’S WORK HISTORY
Johnson’s law enforcement background includes prior employment with the Tyler Police Department, Bullard Police Department and Smith County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office .
A 2005 newspaper article detailed how Johnson fought his termination from the Tyler Police Department after an investigation showed he typed racial slurs on his in-car computer during a 2004 traffic stop.
The state database, Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, contacted Tyler Police Department and informed them of the slur. The newspaper article stated Johnson told detectives he did not write the slur, but the investigation showed he was the only person in the car at the time.
Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle terminated Johnson for violating the department’s code of ethics; professional conduct and personal bearing; responsibilities and general conduct on duty; civil, criminal, judicial and investigative actions and unauthorized use of city property.
According to reports, an outside arbitrator held up Swindle’s decision.
Bullard Police Chief Gary Don Lewis told the newspaper this week that Johnson was not eligible for rehire there, but he would not discuss why.
“He was a good officer up until the time he gave his two-week notice,” Lewis said. “After that time period, he is not eligible for rehire with this agency at this time.”
Mayo said the city is working to gain the public’s trust after the incident, but the investigations have cast a dark shadow over Whitehouse.
“They city council is working on all of this, but it is going to take some time to heal,” he said.
Shelton’s attorney David Dobbs told the Tyler Morning Telegraph his client remains on unpaid leave, but the case against his client could soon unravel due to new evidence. Dobbs said Shelton could be cleared as early as this week.
Last week, city officials said the new evidence presented in the case prompted them to place Shelton on upaid leave, rather than terminate him, as they did Johnson. Mayo said the city was waiting to review the new evidence before taking permanent action on Shelton’s employment.
Mayo confirmed the criminal case against Shelton could be dropped. That fact could change the outcome of the investigation into possible departmental policy violations by Shelton.
City Manager Kevin Huckabee and two Whitehouse police officers were reinstated last week. The independent investigation cleared the two officers, but found Huckabee had an open container of alcohol on city property.
Huckabee remains on probation until his contract is reviewed in October.