A town police officer is facing a felony after he allegedly shot out a streetlight with a potato gun while on duty, Glenville Police Chief Michael Ranalli said Friday.
A second officer has resigned, relating to the same investigation, Ranalli said, though he would not detail the connection.
Christopher Charnews, 35, hired by the town as a police officer in 2004, was charged with one count of third-degree criminal mischief, a felony, and two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief, misdemeanors.
Charnews is accused of using the potato gun to shoot out a streetlight behind the Glenridge Road police station in August. He allegedly fired a gun-like device that propels a plug of raw potato at the light, doing an estimated $630 in damage, according to papers filed in court.
Charnews, a former volunteer fire chief, is also accused of lighting two boxes of road flares in February, also in the police parking lot, authorities said.
He was suspended, and the department is seeking his termination.
The second officer, eight-year veteran Edward Casey, resigned Wednesday. He is not facing charges.
“It’s embarrassing for us,” Ranalli said. “But we did what needed to be done. There are certain behaviors that are completely unacceptable for police officers.”
Ranalli declined to elaborate on Casey’s involvement. He also declined to say what would have happened had Casey not resigned. The arrest and resignation came after a three-week internal investigation. The investigation began looking into an unrelated incident.
Casey and Charnews were placed on paid leave nearly three weeks ago.
Police Benevolent Association President Sgt. Stephen Janik did not return a call for comment Friday evening.
Janik’s name, however, appears on the court documents as the investigating officer making the formal accusations.
The streetlight in the case, one of four on the same pole, remains broken. The pole is located behind the police station in the parking lot. The potato shattered the lens and broke the light.
Officials didn’t even realize the light was broken until the recent investigation, Ranalli said. The flares that were allegedly burned were cleaned up.
Each box cost the town nearly $65 and contained 72 individual flares of the kind used at accident scenes.
Charnews allegedly took them from the police garage in early February, sometime between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., then placed them in the southeast portion of the parking lot and ignited the entire box at once, according to papers.
Casey was hired as an officer in 2000. Two years later, he received an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving for making 27 DWI arrests that year. Casey also made sergeant in early 2006, a position he voluntarily relinquished last fall, citing personal reasons, Ranalli said.
Charnews has worked for the town since 2001, when he was hired as a dispatcher. Three years later he became a police officer. Also, by 2003 he was volunteer fire chief with the Glenville Hill Fire Department.
He left the company some time ago, officials there said.
Disciplinary proceedings against Charnews are to continue alongside the criminal charges, officials said.
Charnews remains suspended without pay. If the internal matter is not resolved within 30 days, he would return to the payroll, but not to duty, Ranalli said.
Ranalli emphasized that the investigation was department-initiated.
“The fact that we discovered this ourselves and acted on it ourselves should be viewed as an indicator that we take our reputation and professionalism as a whole very, very seriously,” Ranalli said.
A third officer, Tim Smith, was also suspended without pay in connection with an unrelated incident. Asked about Smith, Ranalli reiterated that Smith’s case was “not even remotely related to this. He should not be associated with this.”
The department has staffing of 21 officers.