Former fire chief says life turned upside down by stun gun incident

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 17, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
EAST SPENCER — Former East Spencer Fire Chief Shane Cranfield said his life has been turned upside down after claims he was involved in using a stun gun on a fellow firefighter.
Cranfield, who had worked part-time as fire chief for the East Spencer Fire Department for nearly a year, refutes allegations made by fellow firefighter John Resino that Cranfield and Assistant Chief Allen Carlyle shocked Resino with a Taser.
Resino, 18, a rookie firefighter, claimed he was shocked both by Cranfield and Carlyle with a Taser provided by on-duty East Spencer Police Officer James Lambeth.
The teen said he was drive-stunned with a police issued Taser, which doesn’t involve deploying barbs. A stun gun doesn’t deploy any barbs.
Resino, who entered the department as a junior firefighter, was no longer a junior upon turning 18.
The trial, which was scheduled on various court calendars based on available courtroom space and the availability of the judge, was listed on a probation violation calendar dated May 8, the day it began. The trial concluded Tuesday.
It was a non-jury trial. Based on state law, criminal district court cases are always non-jury.
Cranfield, Carlyle and Lambeth were all found not guilty.
The firefighters had been charged with simple assault. Lambeth was charged with aiding and abetting, as well as willful failure of his duties.
Cranfield and Carlyle were terminated and banned from the premises of the fire station. Lambeth resigned from the police department.
In December, the men and their families were attending a Christmas party with fellow firefighters when the incident was said to have occurred. The party was followed by an awards ceremony that same night at the fire station and Resino was presented the Rookie of the Year award by Cranfield.
Resino said he was shocked on his chest, stomach and legs for two- to four-seconds at a time. That was refuted at the trial, said Cranfield’s attorney, James Randolph of Salisbury.
A memory card contained in the Taser captures the number of times the weapon is discharged, but it can’t determine if contact is made with skin.
Lt. Mike Brady, a Taser instructor with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, testified as an expert witness and said if the teen been shocked, there would have been visible marks or burns.
Court testimony revealed that Resino had none, Randolph said.
Resino told the court he didn’t go to the hospital until five days after the incident.
The teen said he held onto a metal doorknob as the men, on the other side of the door, placed the Taser on the doorknob and shocked Resino.
According to Brady’s testimony, Resino could not have been shocked through the door.
Randolph said witnesses told the court the men were “horsing around,” but at no time was Resino actually shocked.
“Witnesses refuted significant portions of the alleged victim’s statement as to what he said happened,” said Salisbury Attorney James Davis, who represented Carlyle.
“The state and defense presented evidence,” Davis said. “There was expert evidence which impeached the allegations of the alleged victim regarding having been Tased through a door handle and having been Tased on his skin a number of times.”
Davis said he was happy that his client could now “move on with his life.”
Cranfield said if the town lifted the ban and allowed him to return to his position, he would.
“I would go back in a heartbeat,” he said.
He loved his job and would like the opportunity to return to it. He’s been a firefighter for nearly 10 years.
There were a lot of people who shunned not only Cranfield, but his family as well. Two of his four children were harassed at school.
“It became very stressed at home,” said Stacy Cranfield, Shane’s wife.
Strangers made threats of violence against Cranfield on various firefighter-related websites.
“This shows the power of what false allegations can do,” Randolph said.
Cranfield is thankful to his friends and family who supported him.
Repeated attempts to reach Assistant District Attorney Michelle Walker, who prosecuted the case, were unsuccessful.
“The case was thoroughly prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office and it appeared the judge carefully considered all the evidence,” Davis said.
District Attorney Brandy Cook is out of the office for the week and not available for comment. A phone call to Resino was not returned. Attempts to reach Lambeth were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach East Spencer Town Administrator Macon Sammons Jr. were unsuccessful.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.