Sheriff's deputy not charged in wake of domestic violence probe
A Columbia County sheriff's deputy who was the subject of a criminal investigation for a domestic violence incident will not face charges.
Deputy Ryan Dews, who is currently assigned as a canine handler with the department, remains on administrative leave from the Sheriff's Office, despite a criminal investigation by OSP that concluded in no charges being filed by the state.
The investigation launched in April after sheriff's officials were alerted to claims of Dews being involved in a domestic violence incident with a girlfriend he was dating and living with in 2016.
The incident was never officially reported by the woman involved, but was mentioned to St. Helens Police Lt. Joe Hogue during a private conversation with a former Sheriff's Office reserve deputy who knew of the incident from conversations with Dews.
Hogue notified then-sheriff Jeff Dickerson, who asked OSP to investigate.
According to the investigative report, Dews and the woman were involved in an argument at the home where they lived together. She mentioned wanting to end their relationship. The woman tried to leave the house, and Dews blocked the door with his hand, according to interviews given to OSP investigators by Dews and the woman involved.
The woman says she then went to another room of the house to get away from him, and Dews proceeded to follow her, again blocking the door. She finally jetted toward a bathroom, and as she got inside and tried to lock the door, he pushed from the other side, knocking her to the ground, according to the report.
"She then ran into a walk-in closet, which had a door," OSP Trooper Matthew Beeson stated in a report. "She tried to shut the door, while Ryan was trying to push it open, and the same thing happened where she fell onto the ground."
At some point, she said, Dews put his hands on her shoulders to try to keep her from leaving.
The report states the woman pretended to call 911 from her phone and when Dews thought she was talking to dispatch, he stopped.
At least three people, including Dews, his ex-girlfriend, and another woman who said she knew Dews and he acknowledged the domestic violence incident, all corroborated the event to state investigators.
Lt. Brian Pixley with CCSO confirmed Dews remains on administrative leave, but would not comment on whether an internal investigation had occurred.
"I can not discuss our personnel issues," Pixley noted.
Following OSP's investigation, the case was referred to the Clatsop County District Attorney's Office. Columbia County District Attorney Jeff Auxier said he preferred an outside agency look at it to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Citing statutes of limitations that have now expired, and a victim who did not want to press charges, the Clatsop County DA's Office did not file charges.
"As the statute had run on all the [misdemeanors,] I was only left with felonies," Clatsop County Deputy District Attorney Steve Chamberlain wrote in a memo to Clatsop County D.A. Josh Marquis.
"Without a cooperative victim I was not willing to file on what would be a very weak coercion. I spoke to the victim and she was very happy to hear that no charges would be filed."
Prior run-ins with the law
While no charges were filed against Dews, police records confirm that the deputy had previous run-ins with law enforcement.
Prior to being hired as a deputy, Dews had been arrested twice — once by OSP for a DUII and once by St. Helens PD for fourth-degree assault.
In the assault case, which took place in June 1997, Dews beat up a man who sent his girlfriend a flower.
The assault case was dismissed later that month when the complainant failed to press charges, according to records obtained from the city of St. Helens.
OSP interviewers were also alerted to an incident sometime between 2010-11, when Dews showed up to the scene of a traffic stop in progress and harassed the man in the car, even "chest bumping" him, until other law enforcement officers intervened.
The report indicates Dews was later transferred to river patrol.
Dews has previously received public praise for being a highly trained canine handler, and offering demonstrations at public events with "Lars," the police dog he manages.
The deputy is named among other CCSO personnel in a lawsuit against the county filed by a man who was attacked by Lars on command while the man was an inmate at the county jail.
The sheriff's deputy isn't the only one in law enforcement to have recently been investigated for alleged domestic violence.
Harassment charges have been filed against OSP Capt. Bill Fugate relating to a domestic violence situation. On Tuesday, June 26, OSP announced the captain would be placed on unpaid administrative leave.
In a statement released Tuesday, OSP denounced the actions of its employee.
"While Captain Fugate is entitled to due process, the Oregon State Police strongly condemns acts of domestic violence, which is especially alarming and disgraceful when involving a police officer. Conduct of this nature is grossly unacceptable and employees that engage in these actions have no place in law enforcement."
Dews was not available for comment before press time.