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Denton sheriff deputy charged with official oppression

Profile image for By Megan Gray
By Megan Gray

A Denton County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with official oppression and theft after being accused of stealing $1,700 in cash from two men while in uniform.

Joshua G. Laningham, 28, was charged late Thursday with theft over $1,500 and under $20,000 by a public servant and with two Class A misdemeanor counts of official oppression. He turned himself in to the Denton County Jail at 10:30 a.m. Friday after being notified that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. His bond was set at $15,000.

Sgt. Larry Kish in the Criminal Investigations Division said in a sworn statement that Laningham confessed to the thefts Thursday and turned over $1,540 in cash that he said came from the men.

Laningham, who worked night shifts as a patrol officer, has been relieved of duty and placed on administrative leave, according to Kish’s statement.

Officials haven’t said if Laningham has been linked to any additional thefts, but they are asking residents who might have had encounters with him to contact the Denton County Sheriff’s Office at 940-349-1665.

Records show that Laningham ran a registration check on a vehicle in the 2100 block of Lakeview Lane on Tuesday evening. Shortly after, a resident in the same block called 911 to report that a policeman driving a marked white Tahoe had stolen money from him and a friend, according to the sworn statement submitted to the court in seeking the arrest warrant.

When Laningham reported back to the area for the 911 call, he told backup deputies that he had had previous encounters with the two men about vehicles parked in the roadway. Laningham got into a verbal altercation with one of the men, who told him that the incident had been recorded by cameras on his house. The affidavit indicates that Laningham then became agitated to the point that another deputy had to calm him down and separate him from the two men.

Reports show one man reported $300 was missing and the other man reported $1,400 was missing. In a written complaint, one of the men said he had been asked for his ID and he placed it on top of his wallet. Laningham then had taken the ID and the wallet to his vehicle, the man said.

Sheriff William Travis said Friday that he will not tolerate individuals who engage in activities that break the law.

“Today, we have one less employed because the public’s trust and confidence has been violated,” he said in a prepared statement.

According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Laningham has been employed by the Denton County Sheriff’s Office for seven years, with four of those as a licensed peace officer.

The theft charge is a state jail felony, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Laura Le Blanc, the custodian of records at the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, said Friday that any officer convicted of a felony offense will be barred as a peace officer and his or her license immediately revoked by the agency.

If found guilty of a misdemeanor charge, an officer would be notified that the agency is seeking to revoke his or her license and be able to go through an appeals process.

“They really wouldn’t get that notice if found guilty of a felony,” she said. “After receiving the court’s judgment, we would issue a statutory revocation.”

Laningham, the arresting agency and the agency he worked with are required to notify the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement of the current charges within 30 days so an investigator may be assigned to follow his case.

Le Blanc said that even if an officer is arrested by the same agency he works for, the commission still expects three formal notifications to be filed with its office in Austin.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 or via Twitter @MGrayNews.