DUPONT — The beleaguered borough police department has experienced yet another quandary: the chief has been prohibited from carrying his gun.
Dupont Police Chief Sean Murray was directed to turn over any firearms in his possession to the Lackawanna County Sheriff in a Protection From Abuse Order requested by Julie Kelly, a Scranton woman with whom he was in a previous intimate relationship.
The PFA order, which was issued on July 20, the same day Kelly filed a PFA petition, mandated that Murray “relinquish any firearm, other weapon, ammunition or any firearm license to the sheriff,” and he had 24 hours to do so.
A message left with the Sheriff’s Office PFA department was not returned on Wednesday.
Murray’s status as chief and his ability to perform the duties of the position without possessing a firearm remain in question.
Mayor Dan Lello could not be reached for comment.
Dupont Councilman Mark Kowalczyk declined to comment on the matter, and referred a reporter to borough Solicitor Erik Dingle. A woman at Dingle’s office said he was not in the office on Wednesday.
According to Kelly’s PFA petition:
Over the past three weeks, Kelly wrote, Murray had been leaving gifts, toiletries and flowers at her house, all while making “hundreds” of text messages and phone calls to her relatives. He allegedly showed up at her residence uninvited on July 10, “begging” for five minutes to speak with her.
Though she did not indicate when, Kelly also alleged that Murray sent her 17-year-old son home to her with a 380 Ruger handgun and ammunition clip.
In another incident on June 24, Kelly alleged that Murray poked her in the face while screaming expletives in her face.
Kelly also accused Murray in the paperwork of grabbing her by the hair and slapping her in July 2013. In October of that year, Kelly alleged, Murray grabbed her by the hair and “cut it all off.”
“(He) told me if I thought cutting my hair was bad, next time will be worse,” she wrote.
Kelly also alleged that Murray was forced to resign from his job at the Lackawanna County Prison for harassing and stalking her.
Lackawanna County spokesman Joseph D’Arienzo confirmed that Murray was employed at the prison from May 4, 2011 to April 29, 2014, when he resigned as a lieutenant. D’Arienzo declined to comment further.
Murray, however, claims it was Kelly who was harassing and threatening him. He filed a PFA petition against Kelly in Luzerne County Court on the same day Kelly filed one against him in Lackawanna County Court.
According to Murray’s petition:
Kelly allegedly made several phone calls and sent text messages in which she continuously threatened Murray and his family between June 30 and July 15.
Murray also alleged that Kelly caused several thousands of dollars in damage to his vehicle with a hammer and on numerous occasions struck him in the face with a closed fist. He also alleged that Kelly threw hot sauce “all over my face and chest area,” causing burns, and that she threatened to shoot him on several occasions.
Murray did not provide dates for those alleged incidents.
In response to a question on the petition form, Murray replied that Kelly does “not any longer” own or possess any firearm license or firearm, weapon or ammunition in addition to one used or one that the defendant threatened to use. He did not request that the court order her to relinquish any weapons.
A judge granted a temporary protection order on the day the petition was filed and had scheduled a hearing for a permanent PFA order for Tuesday. But the judge dismissed Murray’s request for a permanent PFA on Tuesday upon his motion to withdraw or discontinue the action.
Prior police problems
The Dupont Police Department’s situation with the chief is the latest in a series of problems the department has experienced over the several months.
• In October, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis informed officials in Dupont and Jackson Township that her office was investigating John Saranchuk, who had headed the Dupont and Jackson Township departments, for a “systemic abuse of authority.” She said her office would no longer recognize the authority of Saranchuk to make arrests.
Several law enforcement sources said the Dupont Police Department, located in the basement of the borough building on Main Street, was in “shambles” with misplaced evidence, including heroin found in a desk used by Saranchuk. Those sources said seized drugs should be placed in sealed evidence bags.
Mayor Lello had said Saranchuk was taken off the rotation three weeks prior to receiving the DA’s letter because of complaints from the public. Dingle, the solicitor, had said at the time that the police department had been cleaned up under Murray.
• In December, Donna Turkos filed a federal lawsuit against the borough police department and two officers, alleging they filed false criminal charges against her in retaliation for reporting PFA violations by her ex-husband — former Dupont police officer David Turkos.
She alleged Saranchuk and officer Jason Kwiatkowski falsely charged her with tampering with public records and filing a false report in May 2013. She had reported a PFA violation by David Turkos, who was by that time her ex-husband, to Dupont police on May 17, 2012.
• Also in December, Dupont police officer Kenneth Shotwell was charged with burglary, bribery, criminal use of communication facility, criminal trespass, obstruction and oppression.
Shotwell was allegedly with Robert F. Evans Jr., an officer with the Hughestown Police Department, when Evans allegedly used a knife to break into Saranchuk’s desk at the Dupont Police Department. Once inside, the pair allegedly stole an unknown amount of prescription pills that had been collected as part of a “drug take back” program.
An informant for the FBI told police that Evans had been supplying him with Oxycodone for two years.
• In May, Saranchuk and three other Dupont officers filed a federal lawsuit alleging that borough officials had engaged in union busting tactics. The officers claimed that their shifts and hours were drastically reduced and they were replaced by non-unionized officers after their union filed for arbitration when council refused to negotiate a new contract.
Reach Travis Kellar at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @TLNews. Reach Steve Mocarsky at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @TLSteveMocarsky.