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Former Van Zandt County chief deputy Craig Shelton avoids prosecution for excessive force by surrendering peace office license

On Jan. 10, 2022, Shelton admitted to the Texas Rangers he had struck a handcuffed individual in the face without justification, the DA's office said.

VAN ZANDT COUNTY, Texas — New details are emerging after the Van Zandt County sheriff and two members of the force were indicted for lying to officials.

According to Van Zandt County District Attorney Tonda Curry, ex-chief deputy Craig Shelton was made to surrender his peace officer license permanently in a deal to avoid prosecution for excessive force against an inmate.

On Jan. 10, 2022, Shelton admitted to the Texas Rangers he had struck a handcuffed individual in the face without justification, the DA's office said.

Van Zandt County Sheriff Steve Hendrix, Chief Deputy Jerry Wood and Sgt. Blake Snell were found to have witnessed Shelton's use of excessive force and lied to a Texas Ranger when interviewed prior in Dec 2021, according to the indictment handed up by a local grand jury.

The trio was indicted on Mar. 25 on charges of giving a false statement to a peace officer. The charge is a Class B misdemeanor and carries a possible punishment of up to 180 days in jail, a fine not to exceed $2,000, or both. 

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Biggs & Greensdale Law, the attorneys representing Sheriff Hendrix, released the following statement on their client's behalf:

Our firm along with Attorney Greg Waldron have been retained to represent Van Zandt County Sheriff Stephen Hendrix regarding the recent indictment returned by a Van Zandt County Grand Jury for False Statement to a Peace Officer.

 It is our understanding that these allegations surround the Sheriff’s account of events that resulted in the resignation of former Chief Deputy Craig Shelton. Despite recent media reports and other comments made publicly, no false statement was made during or since the inception of the investigation into the alleged misconduct of Mr. Shelton. 

The Van Zandt County Sheriff has been and will continue to be fully cooperative with any state or federal investigators who seek to acquire information related to this alleged misconduct. We believe the charges brought in this indictment are baseless and the Sheriff looks forward to defending the allegations in court.

 Due to the ongoing nature of a criminal prosecution, the Sheriff and his representatives cannot make any further comment on the matter. 

The Sheriff is extremely grateful for the outpouring of support and respectfully asks for patience until this matter can be resolved in court.  

CBS19 also reached out to the Van Zandt County Judge Don Kirkpatrick about the indictments brought against the law enforcement officers.

"Van Zandt County has no comment at this time regarding the misdemeanor indictments of Sheriff Hendrix and two deputies on misdemeanor charges of false report to a peace officer," Kirkpatrick said. "The misdemeanor indictments do not statutorily mandate, or allow, any type of action by the commissioners' court against the sheriff or the two deputies."

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