A Roseburg Police Department officer was terminated and faces a criminal charge of official misconduct for allegedly using excessive force during the arrest of a woman in May, and then lying about it.
Roseburg Police Cpl. George Sheppard, 41, was terminated on Aug. 16 following an internal administrative investigation, which found that Sheppard used excessive force and was dishonest. The incident is also being investigated by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which means Sheppard’s public safety officer certification could be revoked. That would potentially preclude him from being a law enforcement officer in Oregon for at least a few years.
Sheppard was hired on Sept. 1, 2009. His last reported salary was nearly $87,000.
Sheppard appeared in court before Douglas County Circuit Court Judge William Marshall on Dec. 1. During the hearing, Sheppard’s Roseburg attorney, James DeVecchio, said his client intended to plead no contest to the charge against him, which is a misdemeanor. A hearing for that plea is scheduled for Dec. 20.
The incident that led to Sheppard’s criminal charges and termination occurred on the afternoon of May 28, and involved the arrest of a woman named Lacey Jean Haylene Mulholland.
Mulholland, 40, who is listed in court documents as a transient, has a lengthy criminal record. Records show she has been arrested 61 times in the last decade. The arrests include charges of possession of methamphetamines or other controlled substances, resisting arrest, trespassing, disorderly conduct, littering, failure to appear, menacing, assault, robbery and assaulting a public safety officer.
According to Roseburg Police Department records, on the afternoon of May 28, dispatch received a call about a woman stealing tools from a work truck at a business in the 2200 block of Northwest Aviation Drive. The caller said he had seen a woman running from the location, and dropping some tools as she did. The caller last saw the woman climbing a fence and heading toward the interstate. Sheppard and Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Noel Garcia arrived on the scene and attempted to detain the woman, who was later identified as Mulholland. She fought the officers, according to the probable cause affidavit written by Roseburg officer Brandon Halter.
“Lacey was very uncooperative and kicked and tried to bite Corporal Sheppard and Deputy Garcia as they attempted to place Lacey in handcuffs,” Halter wrote. “I observed some of the physical altercation as I was driving to them. Corporal Sheppard later told me that Lacey spat on his face and shoulder during the struggle.”
The affidavit went on to say that Mulholland continued to fight with Sheppard and Garcia.
“Even through her continued flailing and kicking, Corporal Sheppard and Deputy Garcia were able to get her detained in handcuffs,” Halter wrote. He also said he saw a screwdriver laying on the ground next to the work truck and a meth pipe on the ground near where Mulholland jumped the fence.
It is unclear just what Sheppard did that resulted in his criminal charges and termination. Court documents about the incident are vague and no one involved with the matter would discuss it.
The case against Sheppard was investigated by the Oregon State Police and prosecuted by the Lane County District Attorney’s office.
Lane County Prosecutor Matthew Wojcik, who is handling the case, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Mulholland’s court-appointed attorney in the May 28 arrest, Andrew Johnson, also did not return phone calls seeking comment, and DeVecchio declined to comment.
Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein did not respond to a request from The News-Review to comment on the matter; nor did City Manager Nikki Messenger or City Recorder Amy Sowa.
Sowa said that according to Oregon statutes, a disciplinary action and any documents supporting that action — such as the results of an internal administrative investigation that was conducted on Sheppard — do not have to be made public.
Mulholland was indicted on four charges: felony counts of aggravated harassment and assaulting a public safety officer, and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and interfering with a peace officer.
All the charges were eventually dropped.
However, she was arrested again on June 10 following a separate incident and charged with five crimes, including robbery, assault and harassment. Mulholland pleaded guilty to assault and unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, and the remaining charges were dropped.
She was sentenced to 19 months in prison, and two years of post-prison supervision. Mulholland is currently serving her sentence at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.
In addition to the charges against Sheppard, the case also produced an allegation that Halter was pressured by a supervisor to alter his original report on the arrest because it made Garcia look bad.
Sheppard’s attorney, DeVecchio, filed paperwork with the court asking to see the original report.
“It has come to my attention that when Officer Halter submitted this report for review, it was rejected by Sergeant Jeff Eichenbusch,” DeVecchio wrote. “Futhermore, upon rejection, Officer Halter was directed by Sergeant Eichenbusch to change his report so that it did not paint Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Noel Garcia in a ‘bad light.’ Prior to changing his report, Officer Halter obtained a copy of his unaltered report because he believed that what he was being asked to do would require him to be untruthful.”
During the Dec. 1 hearing, DeVecchio said that Sheppard would plead no contest to the charge against him and enter into a six-month diversion program. Upon completion of that program, the charge against Sheppard would be dropped and erased from his record, DeVecchio told Judge Marshall.
However, all of the details for the plea agreement had not yet been worked out, DeVecchio said. Marshall scheduled a hearing for Dec. 20, at which time Sheppard is scheduled to formally enter into that agreement.
The News-Review reporter Madison Temmel contributed to this report.