A Ridley Township police officer was fired yesterday and charged with assault after he allegedly went ballistic on a female Wawa employee who refused to sell him chewing tobacco without identification.
Officer Brian Decker has checked into Eagleville Hospital, which provides behavioral-health treatment, and was awaiting arraignment on charges of simple assault, harassment and making terroristic threats.
Last Tuesday, an assistant manager at the Wawa on Morton Avenue near MacDade Boulevard in Folsom told Delaware County detectives that Decker, 33, a seven-year veteran of the force, repeatedly struck her in the face and head and told her, "You better watch your back."
When she asked Decker if that was a threat, he allegedly responded, "Take it any way you want it. You will be out of here soon. You and your family better watch your back." Decker was off duty at the time.
The woman was treated at Riddle Memorial Hospital for a black eye, contusion of the orbit of her eye and a deep contusion of the soft tissue, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective Robert Lythgoe.
She also told investigators of two previous confrontations with Decker when she had asked him for ID. He once responded by throwing money on the counter, taking the tobacco and telling her to call a cop, according to the police report.
Ridley Township commissioners voted unanimously last night to terminate Decker, who surrendered his badge and gun last week.
"These actions will not be tolerated by this board," said Commissioners President Robert Willert.
"It's a terrible situation and we hate to do this, but it's something that needs to be done - immediately," he said.
Willert said Decker's alleged actions should not reflect on the rest of the police department, which he called "the best department in the state, or anywhere else."
Decker, a former quarterback for Ridley High, was a first-team all-Main Line/Delaware County selection by the Inquirer in 1993. He is the brother of first-year Ridley coach Dennis Decker, who led the 13-2 Green Raiders to the PIAA Class AAAA Eastern Final this year.
Brian Decker, a father of two young children, had just moved into a new house but was dealing with marital problems and other personal issues that may have contributed to the incident at the Wawa, according to one of his close friends.
"He's got the whole American dream, and now he's done," said the friend, who asked not to be identified. "It just turned into a fiasco."
Assistant District Attorney Michael Mattson said yesterday that the charges were filed Friday but that Decker had not yet been arrested because he is undergoing medical treatment.
"We do know where he is," Mattson said. "Once he's released from that facility, the process will start."
Decker graduated from Delaware County Community College and worked as a part-time officer in Norwood before joining the Ridley department in 2002.
"There's absolutely no justification. He should have been the bigger man and walked away," Decker's friend said. "I guess he just wasn't in any frame of mind to deal with it."