Providence officials say a city employee facing criminal allegations of child abuse is innocent until proven guilty and will continue to head the city’s recreation department.

Child abuse charges were filed last week in 1st District Court against 42-year-old Sheyler Gunnell after an incident that reportedly took place in February.

According to Cache County Sheriff’s Lt. Doyle Peck, Gunnell is accused of choking his son after grabbing him by the throat and later shoving his face into the snow to the point where he couldn’t breathe.

The incident reportedly occurred in the presence of another juvenile, Peck said

Gunnell, the city’s recreation and athletic field coordinator, was charged with child abuse (intentionally inflicting serious physical injury on a child), a second-degree felony, and child abuse (recklessly inflicting serious physical injury on a child), a third-degree felony.

Skarlet Bankhead, Providence’s administrative services director, said Gunnell has been straightforward with the city about the allegations made against him.

Bankhead said the city has done its best, with guidance from the city attorney, to balance the interests of the public with those of Gunnell as a private individual.

While Gunnell oversees youth recreation programs as part of his employment with the city, Bankhead says there are generally other people at the park and there are people Gunnell can call upon for help if he feels that is necessary, she said.

While criminal charges were filed last week, Gunnell doesn’t have a court date at this time.

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Amy Macavinta is the crime reporter for The Herald Journal. She can be reached at amacavinta@hjnews.com.