Former Van Zandt County chief deputy agrees to prison term

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 3:43 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2022 at 4:44 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A former Van Zandt County chief deputy pleaded guilty in connection with an excessive force allegation Wednesday and is agreeing to a 44-month prison sentence.

Steven Craig Shelton entered the plea in federal court. The sentence is pending judge approval at a later date.

Shelton avoided prosecution in Van Zandt County by entering into a pretrial intervention contract.

Documents filed in federal court allege Shelton used his forearm to strike someone in the face while they were handcuffed in September 2021. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Shelton admitted during a plea hearing that on or about Sept. 21, 2021, while he was acting as the Chief Deputy and second-in-command of the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, he repeatedly struck a handcuffed and compliant arrestee in the face. Shelton further admitted that his acts, which occurred in front of several other officers in the Rolling Oaks area of Wills Point, caused bodily injury to the arrestee. Shelton admitted he hit the arrestee out of frustration, despite knowing that there was no legitimate, law enforcement need to use force, the U.S. Attorney said.

“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.”

U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston added that law enforcement officers are not above the law.

“It is the undisputed duty of a law enforcement officer to protect and serve,” said 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.”

An FBI official said that trust can be broken with communities when law enforcement officials commit such acts.

“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.”

Shelton was put on conditional release following the hearing.

If the 44-month sentence is approved, it will be followed by a five-year sentence of supervised release.


+ Former Van Zandt County chief deputy to plead guilty to federal charge

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