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Tom Davidson

Mar 22, 2021

Criminal charges have been dismissed against a woman who had an encounter with a Churchill police officer while taking a walk.

Criminal charges have been dismissed against a woman who had an encounter with a Churchill police officer while taking a walk. She said the 2019 incident left her handcuffed and briefly detained.Rebecca Suits, 60, of Boise, Idaho, was visiting her godmother in Wilkinsburg when she went for a walk that ended up in Churchill.Police filed misdemeanor obstruction charges against Suits after she announced she was filing a federal lawsuit over the way she was treated by Churchill police Officer Stephen R. Shaulis.The charges were dismissed Tuesday in Allegheny County Court, according to online records.“Mrs. Suits is very elated the criminal charges have been dismissed,” her attorney in the federal case, Todd Hollis, said. “It’s been a trying time for both her and her family.”

The charges were filed Oct. 21, 2019 — the same day Suits, her husband, and godmother held a press conference in Hollis’ Downtown office to detail what happened Sept. 23.Suits went for a walk in Wikinsburg, where her godmother lives, and ended up in Churchill, where someone called 911 to report her as a suspicious person.She was questioned by Shaulis, but refused to provide identification to him, she said, and he followed her to Wilkinsburg, handcuffed her and took her to the Churchill station. At the time, Suits said, she was released because she needed to be treated for elevated blood pressure and claustrophobia.Hollis filed a federal lawsuit against Shaulis and Churchill borough claiming civil rights violations.

The suit was on hold while the criminal case was pending. Hollis said they are moving forward with the 11-count lawsuit that claims Suits’ rights were violated during the incident as she was unlawfully detained, excessive force was used and Shaulis acted with negligence and recklessness.Churchill police Chief Ronald Akerley and Shaulis didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.“Now that the criminal matter is over, we will move forward with the prosecution of our federal claims,” Hollis said.

This isn’t the first time Shaulis has faced accusations as a police officer.In 2017, several Woodland Hills High School students sued Shaulis, contending he assaulted them when he was assigned to the school as a resource officer. Shaulis was removed from the school after video of the incidents surfaced, and the lawsuit against the officer and the district was settled for $500,000.Hollis represented the students in that case.

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