Deputies suspended for failure to serve emergency detention order

Three Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Deputies have been suspended after an internal investigation into the failure to properly serve an emergency detention order that may have resulted in the death of a local man.

In the early-morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 4th, 38-year-old Derek Henderson, of Columbus, died after being shot in the head, chest and abdomen. He apparently entered the home of a neighbor he didn’t know, while armed with a baseball bat. When the homeowner was confronted by Henderson, he opened fire. Henderson was pronounced dead at Columbus Regional Hospital.

Authorities says that Henderson was under an emergency detention order and any officer who encountered him should have taken him into custody for emergency treatment.

Columbus Police report that they were called to Henderson’s home in the 1800 block of Home Avenue three times on Friday. The first trip at 11:08 a.m. Friday morning, was requested by the VA to take Henderson to the hospital for treatment. But officers could not find Henderson. He refused assistance during a police visit later that afternoon.

The emergency detention order was issued at just before 5 p.m. Friday afternoon. But a third call came at 6:21 p.m. Friday evening with Bartholomew County deputies called to the home and assisted by Columbus police.  Police did not take Henderson into custody and left after determining they were no longer needed.

Sheriff Matt Myers says that it was after those unsuccessful efforts that Henderson left his home and was later shot to death.

Sheriff Myers say the investigation revealed that visual and verbal contact was made with Henderson in his home, but he refused to leave his home or allow the deputies inside. The deputies eventually left the scene and made no further attempt to serve the emergency detention order. Myers says the deputies should not have left the scene until Henderson was detained. As a result, Lt. Gary Knoef, Sgt. Jason Lancaster and Sgt. Jason Williams have all been suspended for 15 days without pay for their roles in the failure to detain Henderson. They will also be demoted from their Sheriff appointed positions. Deputy Gary Knoef will return to his position as a merit sergeant. Deputies Lancaster and Williams will return to their positions as merit patrolmen.

Sheriff Myers says that one of the biggest challenges facing police officers nationwide is the challenge of policing the mentally ill. He says that ongoing training is necessary. With that, 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.