3 Bartholomew County deputies suspended, demoted for failing to detain man before fatal shooting


Sgt. Gary Knoef (left), Jason Lancaster (middle) and Jason Williams (right)

COLUMBUS, Ind. – Three Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies have been suspended and demoted for failing to detain a man who was later killed after a vandalism spree.

An emergency detention order directed “any police officer” to detain Derek Henderson for his “own health and safety” as well as the safety of others.

The deputies, identified as Lt. Gary Knoef, Sgt. Jason Lancaster and Sgt. Jason Williams, all made contact with Henderson, who refused to leave his home or let the deputies inside on Jan. 3. The deputies left without detaining him and made no further attempt to serve the emergency order, according to Bartholomew County Sheriff Matthew Myers.

Henderson later went on a destructive vandalism spree; he entered a home about two blocks away on Jan. 4 and confronted the homeowner with a baseball bat. The homeowner opened fire; Henderson suffered gunshot wounds to the head, chest and abdomen, according to an autopsy. He’d been ordered to be detained on grounds of mental illness.

Sheriff Myers said the deputies should not have left the scene until Henderson was detained. All three have been suspended for 15 days without pay and will be demoted. Knoef will return to his position as a merit sergeant while Lancaster and Williams will be reduced to the rank of merit patrolmen.

The disciplinary action follows an internal investigation into the matter.

From the department’s statement:

One of the biggest challenges facing police officers nationwide, is the challenge of policing the mentally ill. Mental illness varies in nature and severity, and each situation encountered by officers will be unique. Ongoing training is necessary to adequately address this challenge. Acknowledging this need, Sheriff Myers and two members of his leadership team had previously committed to attending the Indiana Sheriff’s Association’s Winter Meeting at the end of January where mental health issues and training will be discussed and studied.

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