East Spencer firefighters, police officer charged with assault

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 30, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
Two East Spencer firefighters and an East Spencer police officer are being charged after investigators said they shocked a junior firefighter nine times at a department Christmas party.
Fire Chief Shane Cranfield and former fire chief Allen Carlyle borrowed a Taser from on-duty police officer James Lambeth about 6 p.m. at the fire department’s Dec. 10 Christmas party, according to Rowan County investigators.
The two firefighters discharged the stun gun several times, the report said, scaring 18-year-old John Resino of Salisbury.
The junior firefighter ran into a nearby room to get away from the firefighters, but Cranfield and Carlyle broke the door’s handle and drive-stunned the teenager as many as nine times, investigators said.
A drive stun issues the same shock from a Taser but is deployed by holding the stun gun to a person’s skin, not with propelled metal barbs.
The department-issued Taser X-26 was discharged 18 times in a three-minute span, according to the report. Approximately eight people witnessed the incident.
The report said Resino, a North Rowan High School student, was not taken to the hospital.
Chief Deputy David Ramsey said the Sheriff’s Office became involved after a complaint was filed to acting East Spencer police chief Darren Westmoreland.
“The investigation was initiated by the East Spencer Police Department after a complaint had been filed with them. It was then turned over to us,” Ramsey said. “They did the initial investigation, we just followed it up.”
Investigators said 40-year-old Lambeth will be charged with misdemeanor failure to discharge duty. He resigned from East Spencer Police on Dec. 15.
Deputies said Cranfield, 37, and Carlyle, 29, will also be charged with misdemeanor assault.
Cranfield took over as fire chief after Carlyle resigned in Oct. 2010.
According to an Oct. 13, 2010, Post article, Carlyle worked for the department for three years before resigning as chief.
He’s spent more than 14 years in fire service and also works part time for Rowan County Telecommunications.
Interim Police Chief Darren Westmoreland said Thursday he began investigating when he was notified on Dec. 15.
Lambeth resigned about three hours later, he said.
“I didn’t know that he knew I was even investigating it,” Westmoreland said. “It was probably within three hours that he resigned. He didn’t even tell me why, but I kind of knew he found out.”
Westmoreland said he asked for the State Bureau of Investigation or the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the incident.
It was turned over to the Sheriff’s Office the following week.
Westmoreland said Lambeth was on duty during the Christmas party.
Lambeth has worked part time for the department since about 2009. Westmoreland said he does not have a prior history of Taser use or excessive force.
Westmoreland said Lambeth’s resignation puts even more strain on the department, which has just four full-time employees, including the interim chief, and one reserve officer.
“We’re trying to change the perception of this department over here,” he said. “It seems like it’s always something, but things will get better.”
East Spencer Town Administrator Macon C. Sammons Jr. said the town is conducting an internal investigation into the incident. He said the town was made aware about 10 to 12 days ago.
Sammons said no action has been taken against the two firefighters.
“At this point, there has been no action, but at the proper point there will be,” Sammons said.
Sammons refused to say if the two firefighters were volunteer, full-time or part-time employees.
Mayor Barbara Mallett declined to comment, citing the on-going investigation.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at nhardin@salisburypost.com or 704-797-4246.