A Tuckerton police officer has been indicted on aggravated assault charges that alleges he allowed his K-9 partner to unnecessarily attack a woman after she had been apprehended, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office said.
Justin M. Cherry, who is currently suspended without pay, also faces official misconduct charges that claim he falsified a police report and affidavit to cover up the incident, the prosecutor’s office said.
According to information from the prosecutor’s office, Cherry was called to a private residence in Tuckerton on Jan. 29, 2014, where Wendy Tucker, 58, of Barnegat was reportedly an unwelcome guest. Tucker agreed to leave the home once officers arrived, but they found her driving privileges to be suspended, so officers told her to take the bus. A few minutes later, Cherry saw Tucker driving her vehicle from the area, and when he attempted to pull her over, she refused to stop.
Other departments were notified of the incident, and Tucker was eventually pulled over by Bargnegat Township Police in Barnegat Township. The indictment alleges that Cherry followed Tucker to that stop and allowed his K-9 to attack her during her arrest, and that his actions were “unnecessary, unwarranted, and improper,” the prosecutor’s office said.
According to Press of Atlantic City archives, Cherry was one of two Tuckerton officers who were cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting death of Steven Theoharides back in 2012. At the time, police said Theoharides threatened Officer Brian Olsen and Cherry with a meat cleaver at his Otis Avenue home Sept. 15, 2011, and was fatally shot by the officers. The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed that case and found no wrongdoing, then forwarded it to the state Attorney General’s Office, which agreed with those findings.
Cherry is free on $15,000 bail, which was posted after he was initially charged April 9, 2014. Tucker had faced charges of driving without a license and eluding in the third-degree. The eluding charge has been dismissed.
Contact Christie Rotondo: