Sallisaw Police Chief Shaloa Edwards pleaded not guilty to embezzlement charges Wednesday (April 24).
A felony warrant was issued for Edwards’ arrest Friday (April 12) on one count of embezzlement of public money carrying a $3,000 bond, according to court documents. The arrest warrant was filed in LeFlore County after the Sequoyah County district attorney recused himself from the case, Sallisaw City Manager Bill Baker said. Now, the case is being handled by LeFlore County district attorney Jeff Smith.
"Case was reviewed and it was determined that the chief had committed an act of embezzlement by virtue of his office," Smith said. "Apparently he used funds that were petty cash funds that were public funds for personal use. That's against the law."
Edwards turned himself in to Sallisaw police the same day, and was booked and released from the Sequoyah County Jail.
The charge stems from an investigating into the police department’s cash box after Edwards admitted to taking small amounts of money on three occasions for personal use, according to Sallisaw Mayor Shannon Vann.
Edwards returned the money and was essentially using it to make small purchases such as lunch, according to Baker.
"The money that was taken from a city account," Smith explained. "It's public money it's a petty cash fund but nonetheless it's public monies. It would be no different than if I decided to use money from my own office which don't belong to me. They belong to the state of Oklahoma for personal use."
Kenny Howell, who lives in Sallisaw, said he was surprised to hear about the arrest.
"I've lived here all of my life," Howell said. "I've known Shaloa and his whole family my entire life. It just kind of blows me away. I mean it just seems kind of petty."
Edwards was stripped of his supervising powers in February. He has since filed a lawsuit against the city. Read more about this investigation.