By Joe Beck
A man who witnessed a physical encounter between one or more Strasburg police officers and a suspect later charged with assaulting one of the officers is challenging the account of the incident given by police last week.
Jeremy McWilliams, 29, of 771 Wardensville Pike, Star Tannery, is charged with assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and several other charges linked to accusations he stole a check of more than $400 from Fox's Pizza.
Officer Jason Clark sought out McWilliams for check forging after a bank teller noticed a difference between the signature on a check McWilliams cashed at the bank and another signature on the same check, according to a criminal complaint filed in Shenandoah County General District Court.
Police Chief Tim Sutherly said Friday that Clark and Officer Matt Troxell confronted McWilliams at North Place and North Street around 1 p.m. Sept. 17.
Sutherly said McWilliams ran away from the police and then resisted and assaulted Clark as the officer tried to arrest him.
Sutherly said no punches were thrown and no one was injured during the confrontation.
But James Himelright of 182 North St. said Monday he saw a much more intense encounter between Clark and McWilliams that included five or six punches thrown, most of them by Clark. Himelright said the fight ended with McWilliams fleeing the scene on foot, several minutes before Troxell arrived in a squad car.
Himelright said McWilliams is the uncle of his stepson, who also witnessed the encounter.
Himelright said he saw pictures of McWilliams after his arrest the following day.
"That boy was all messed up," Himelright said of McWilliams, adding, "you can see knuckle prints under his eyeball."
Himelright said Clark at one point had McWilliams in a headlock, but Williams was able to throw off Clark and punched the officer in the stomach before fleeing.
Himelright said he believed Clark used excessive force in the encounter and McWilliams fought back and fled in self-defense.
Sutherly confirmed that McWilliams was not arrested until later in the week.
Capt. Wesley Dellinger of the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office said deputies arrested McWilliams around 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at a residence in Woodstock.
Sutherly said he is standing by the account of the incident he gave last week.
"We haven't received any complaints or allegations from McWilliams or anyone else," Sutherly said in an interview Monday.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org