JASONVILLE, Ind. — An investigation has found a police chief justified in shooting and killing an armed Jasonville man who a prosecutor believes may have been seeking suicide by cop.
The investigation, conducted by the Indiana State Police and reviewed by Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod D. Holtsclaw, reviewed bodycam footage that recorded the entire incident between Jasonville Police Chief Ryan Van Horn and Stephen Scott Wheeler that occurred on April 29 at a residence on Washington Street in Jasonville.
According to the investigation, Chief Van Horn was dispatched to Wheeler’s home after neighbors called police stating that Wheeler was armed with a knife and threatening nearby citizens.
Chief Van Horn can be overheard in the bodycam footage trying to de-escalate the situation, the investigation found, ordering Wheeler on 15 occasions to drop the knife. Wheeler reportedly continued to yell and curse at Van Horn and said, “I don’t care, shoot me.” Later, Wheeler is reported to have said he would have shot himself if only he’d had a gun.
Wheeler reportedly advanced on Van Horn several times with his knife raised. Eventually, Wheeler made it to Van Horn’s vehicle, the investigators revealed, where he again raised his knife and charged at the police chief.
Van Horn responded by shooting Wheeler one time in the chest when he was only six feet away. Wheeler is then seen on bodycam footage lifting his knife one final time before falling to the ground.
Van Horn called for EMS before trying to provide assistance to Wheeler, according to the investigation’s report. Wheeler died, however, from his injuries.
Prosecutor Holtsclaw stated in his review that Chief Van Horn was justified in using deadly force against Wheeler because the police chief had been given “no choice but to shoot him in order to avoid being stabbed.”
“Though it is impossible to be certain,” Holtsclaw wrote, “the language and actions Wheeler chose that day were consistent with someone who sought suicide by cop.”