Fugitive Fort Mill Police Officer Stephen Cleary Arrested in Florida

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Authorities with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) in Florida have arrested a fugitive from South Carolina named Stephen James Cleary. Cleary is a former officer with the Fort Mill Police Department (FMPD). He was wanted on charges of "domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature" as well as kidnapping and unlawful neglect of a child. The mainstream media is reporting that Cleary's reason for fleeing to Florida is not clear, but we think those charges make the reason obvious.

Officer Cleary was fired on Monday right after his own department responded to a call from his wife and turned the case over to the South Carolina Law Division (SLED) who quickly issued a warrant. Cleary had been with the department since March of 2019. The named victims in the case are Cleary's wife and kids. His wife alleges that he had a gun, grabbed her, and held her against her will for over an hour on Sunday before fleeing to a neighbor's house to call 911. She also said that he had physically assaulted her several times in recent weeks. The basis for the child neglect charge remains unknown, but it is common for crimes against mothers committed in front of children to lead to such charges.

Cleary's motives remain unknown and although we don't normally speculate as to what happened in cases like these, the fact that a husband held his wife for over an hour against her will on Sunday in a Bible Belt state makes us think that religion could have played a role. Perhaps she had sinned and her husband wanted her to go to church, so he held her for over an hour hoping she would come with him and only let her escape after he knew the service was over. South Carolina is known for being a hotbed of conservative Christian fanaticism. Just recently one of that state's elected representatives said that he plans to object to Electoral College certification of the 2020 Presidential Election despite Joe Biden being the clear winner (https://www.wyff4.com/article/congressman-jeff-duncan-plans-to-object-to-electoral-college-certification/35099628). We can only assume that people in his state have been depressed since early November and that such depression could have played a role in Officer Cleary's decision making.

According to public records, Officer Cleary's only prior run-in with the law was a 2012 speeding ticket. He is 36 years old. We could not find a booking photo for Cleary on the Hillsborough County Jail website where no records for anyone by that name could be found despite media reports that he is being held there pending extradition to South Carolina, so we are using the above image of a man on the run wearing a stained wife beater for now with his face blurred out to protect the identity of the actor. Cleary also is not in the York County Jail according to their records. The Fort Mill City Jail does not appear to have an online inmate search feature, but we don't think he is there due to pending extradition proceedings and the fact that even if he waives extradition proceedings he would not likely be moved until at least next week due to the need to transport him across state lines.

UPDATE: Thanks to a tip we were able to locate a mugshot of Officer Clearly. We have added it to our original image of a man wearing a stained wife beater running from the law. We have also uploaded a PDF with his profile from the jail website.

This article has been updated to include a newly acquired booking photo on top of our original image of a man wearing a stained wife beater shirt running from police. The photo is from Cleary's new inmate profile which we have uploaded as a PDF.

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