A former sergeant with the Muncie Police Department pleaded guilty Tuesday to a count of obstruction of justice.
Joe Krejsa, 52, admitted to writing a false report to cover up excessive force used against an arrestee by one of his colleagues, former officer Chase Winkle.
Krejsa responded to an arrest in August 2018. Winkle had used excessive force against a man, causing a serious injury to his face. Krejsa conducted a supervisory review of the incident and deemed the use of force “justified” after viewing video of the incident.
A captain asked Krejsa to take a more in-depth look at the case. Krejsa watched body camera footage, which showed Winkle and another officer, Corey Posey, approaching the man in an alley and telling him to get down on the ground and put his hands on his head. The man complied. As Posey held him on the ground, the man “directed a verbal insult” at the officers. Winkle used his knee to drop his bodyweight onto the man’s neck and head area.
The man screamed, saying something to the effect of, “He crushed my whole face!” Winkle then used a Taser on the man as other Muncie police officers arrived to assist with the arrest, including Jeremy Gibson. After the man was secured, officers lifted him into a seated position; Gibson delivered a pair of “forceful knee strikes” to the man’s face, investigators said.
Krejsa’s lengthy memorandum about the arrest contained several false statements, according to federal prosecutors. He claimed officers used only “low levels” of force at the beginning of the incident and only escalated their efforts because they were ineffective. He wrote that Winkle, the son of the department’s chief of police at the time, kneeled on the man’s left shoulder and upper body instead of mentioning the knee strike. He also wrote that the man suffered only cuts to his face when his injuries were serious in nature.
Krejsa acknowledged the inaccuracies in his report as part of his plea agreement. He admitted the omissions and falsehoods were intended to influence any potential further investigation into what happened, according to the Department of Justice.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Krejsa pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. A second obstruction of justice count was dismissed as part of the agreement.
According to the sentencing guidelines, he faces up to 20 years, although federal prosecutors said they would recommend a sentence on the “low end” of the sentencing range. There is no guarantee the court would follow that recommendation, according to the agreement. Sentencing is scheduled for June 27.
Krejsa is the fourth Muncie Police Department official to plead guilty in connection with the case. Winkle pleaded guilty in December 2022 to 11 counts related to excessive force and obstruction of justice, with sentencing scheduled for March.
Gibson pleaded guilty in May 2022 to civil rights and obstruction of justice charges.
Another officer, Dalton Kurtz, entered a pre-indictment guilty plea in August 2021 for failing to report the “inappropriate use of force” by Winkle during a separate incident.
Posey, who’s charged with filing a false report, is scheduled to stand trial at a later date.