Anti-drug group’s director on leave of absence following assault arrest

The executive director of Project Bald Eagle has taken a leave of absence from his job following his arrest Saturday afternoon on charges of allegedly assaulting his wife.

Stephen Murphy Shope, 43, of 608 Hawthorne Ave., was charged with simple assault and harassment, according to an affidavit filed by Cpl. Eric Derr.

Police were called to the couple’s home about 2:30 p.m. to investigate a report of a domestic assault, Derr said.

When officers arrived, they saw Shope’s wife, Ashton, “had a large visible lump on her right temple, just above the eye, and was crying,” the officer said in an affidavit.

While the two were arguing, the husband began to leave the house with the couple’s daughter, police were told.

When Ashton stepped in front of him and demanded to know where he was taking the child, “Shope grabbed Ashton by the throat and pushed her to the ground, where she struck her head, causing a lump,” Derr said.

Ashton provided “a written statement and requested prosecution,” Derr said.

During questioning at police headquarters, Steve Shope “provided a similar story and that he was left with no option as he was trying to leave the house,” Derr said officers were told.

At his arraignment hours later, Shope told District Judge Jerry C. Lepley that “I was trying to leave, (it’s) not my nature to be aggressive.” He was released on $5,000 bail.

Police had been called to the couple’s home about 9:30 a.m. Saturday for a domestic problem, but an officer said no police action was necessary at that incident.

“Steve Shope is on an extended leave from Project Bald Eagle — for whom he has worked as an independent contractor — while he addresses legal and personal matters,” Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, chairwoman of the Project Bald Eagle Board, said in a prepared statement.

“The Board of Directors will meet next week to explore the next steps for the organization,” she added, Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour.

The organization brings awareness and combats the heroin and prescription pain medicine epidemic.

In addition to his position with Project Bald Eagle, Shope was elected by city voters — receiving 1,352 votes — to be one of seven charter commissioners to review the city charter and take nine months to make a recommendation as to the best form of government for the city for voters to consider in the November general election.

That commission meets for its initial meeting at 4 p.m. today in City Hall.

Shope also ran an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican for one of three open seats on City Council.