Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Shooting classified a homicide
By Daily Standard Staff
By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
and WILLIAM KINCAID
CELINA - The death of Robert Hensley - shot Wednesday by a Celina Police officer responding to 911 calls - is classified as a homicide.
"Right now, it's a homicide," Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said. "It's our job to determine if it was justified."
The investigation into the officer-involved fatal shooting of the 39-year-old St. Marys man at an auto dealership along East Market Street could be completed later this week. Hensley, who reportedly was armed and waiving a gun in public prior to the shooting, was shot by Celina Patrolman Andy Regedanz, 33, and later pronounced dead at Coldwater hospital.
Grey - whose department is handling the investigation - said he hopes to send a completed report to the county prosecutor's office by Friday or early next week. A review of such cases by the prosecutor is standard protocol, he added.
Grey said he'll recommend the findings be presented to a grand jury to "hear from the voice of the people."
The sheriff on Monday refused to discuss details of the shooting, which took place at approximately 12:45 p.m. on the lot of Lakeshore Auto Sales.
Several 911 calls were placed prior to the shooting from residents who reported seeing a suspicious man with a gun wearing no shirt, shorts, sandals and a cowboy hat. The witnesses said the male had a gun tucked in his pants or pocket and twirled it in the air at the busy intersection of Livingston Street and Grand Lake Road.
Earlier, Hensley had visited Kremer's Gun shop on Livingston Street, where he abandoned his disabled Jeep.
Grey said the prosecutor and/or grand jury must determine if Regedanz's use of deadly force was necessary. Law enforcement agencies in Ohio adopt their own policies, according to Jill Del Greco of the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
"It's up to each (department) to create their own policy on the constitutional use of deadly force," she said.
Most area policies state that deadly force is necessary when an officer has probably cause to believe a suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer or others. Grey said policies aren't crafted to cover every possible scenario.
"You can't anticipate every situation an officer is going to encounter," he said.
Celina Assistant Police Chief Calvin Freeman said the department's policy states deadly force is prescribed when weapons are used against an officer, attempts are made to disarm an officer or life-threatening, weaponless assaults are made against an officer.
Neither Freeman nor Grey would answer whether Hensley pointed his gun at Regedanz.
"They're trained to respond to what they're confronted with," Freeman said. "With that being said, could have Andy turned around and ran? Yeah. But then there's consequences for that called losing your job because he (would have) just put those people on the car lot in jeopardy or any place else in there because we know that something wasn't quite right."
Grey said his investigators won't review the Celina department policy on deadly force because if Regedanz violated it "that's a disciplinary action" to be dealt with internally. Investigators' only concern is what occurred seconds before Regedanz - a 12-year veteran of the police force - fired his gun at Hensley, he said.
Freeman said it is yet to be determined if Regedanz's use of deadly force was justified.
"Once we get the findings from both BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification) and the Mercer County Sheriff's Department's conclusion to the investigation, that will be reviewed in-house, and at that point in time, we'll release our findings," he said.
Freeman said Regedanz was the first to respond to the scene. Sgt. James Stelzer, a police detective, and Freeman arrived after the shooting.
According to Freeman, in such a situation - specifically "a man with a gun, brandishing it, wheeling it, twirling it around in public" - the officer who arrives on the scene first must deal with the situation at hand.
"It's one of those unusual calls that you just never know," he said. "Everybody starts heading that direction."
The circumstances of each specific incident determines how an officer responds, police Sgt. Tom Wale said.
"If the guy pulls a gun, points it at me, I'm not calling for backup then confronting him," Wale said. "I'm protecting myself first and then the second I'm safe to do so, I can take a second and do it (call for backup). These things unfold in seconds."
In the case of Hensley, Regedanz knew other officers would arrive on the scene because of the radio traffic and specific dispatches, Freeman said.
"We try, like in domestic situations, we try to respond with two officers there because history has shown that domestics are one of those things where things can get out of control very quickly," Freeman said. "Emotions run very high. So we respond to certain calls with what we call a backup officer if possible."
Grey said the choice to use deadly force often is a "split-second decision" for an officer. His deputies are trained to neutralize the threatening subject by shooting at the "center mass" or chest area. They also are taught to fire twice, he added.
Grey did not say where Regedanz' bullet(s) struck Hensley or how many times he was hit. Information from an autopsy is pending.
Grey also would not answer whether Regedanz was carrying a Taser that day.
Tasers are carried by officers on shift, Freeman said. According to the department's protocol, they are to be used by officers when struck or kicked. Deadly force is recommended when weapons are used, life-threatening assaults occur or attempts are made to disarm an officer.
Immediately after the shooting, Regedanz, 33, was placed on temporary nondisciplinary administrative leave, in accordance with policy for officer-involved shootings. He was scheduled to return to desk duty on Monday but called in sick. He returned today, according to city safety service director Tom Hitchcock.
Regedanz in late January was placed on leave for unusual behavior and was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. City administrators cited failure of good behavior and neglect of duty due to incidents relating to mishandling evidence and harassing people connected to his estranged wife.
According to a document released to the newspaper on Monday, psychologist Eric Summons on Feb. 1 wrote, "The (psychological) evaluation results suggest no evidence of behavior problems or possible risks that would significantly impair ... Regedanz's performance as a police officer for the city of Celina."
Investigators have not said why Hensley - who has a criminal record in Auglaize County that includes disorderly conduct - was in Celina. He worked as a maintenance man for a company contracted with Kmart in St. Marys but recently took a two-week leave of absence, store manager Matt Cherveny said. He told the newspaper he did not know why Hensley requested the time off.
A very different outcome occurred in an officer-involved shooting in St. Marys on March 13. Brad Scheer, 62, of St. Marys was reportedly drunk when he exited his home with a pellet rifle and was fired upon by a city patrolman and an Auglaize County Sheriff's deputy after earlier making threats to law enforcement in a 911 call. Scheer was wounded in the arm.
Authorities charged Scheer with aggravated menacing and on Thursday he was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
From 2008 to 2010 there were 88 arrest-related deaths in Ohio, according to the Office of Criminal Justice Services in Ohio. ARDs include deaths that occur before officers establish physical custody or before a formal arrest process is initiated. Homicide by law enforcement personnel accounted for 69 percent of Ohio's ARDs during the three-year period.
The word "murder" in the original headline and original first sentence of this story was incorrect. The correct word is "homicide."
Homicide is defined as any killing of any human being by another; murder is an unlawful homicide. The investigation to determine if the shooting was lawful or unlawful is incomplete.
The error was made in reporting.