Friday, May 17th, 2013
Celina cop cleared in fatal shooting
By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - A Mercer County grand jury on Thursday decided a Celina police officer was justified in the fatal shooting of an armed St. Marys man on April 10.
The case against Patrolman Andy Regedanz, 33, in the shooting death of Robert Hensley was presented to a panel of nine grand jurors by special prosecutor Andy Wilson of Clark County. The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office did not handle the case due to a conflict of interest.
Wilson this morning said the jurors "found the use of deadly force by Regedanz was reasonable and justified."
"It was an unfortunate situation ... but Regedanz had no choice but to react," Wilson said, adding the officer followed "100 percent standard operating procedure."
The grand jury - all Mercer County residents - were provided facts from the sheriff's office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification, and listened to nine witnesses. Wilson said they were asked to conclude whether Hensley presented an imminent risk to Regedanz and other citizens that day and if deadly force was justified.
Regedanz, a 12-year veteran of the police force, was placed on paid administrative leave April 10, in accordance with department policy for officer-involved shootings. On April 14, he returned to "plain clothes duty" and has helped the police department prepare to move from its current location to a former bank building across the street.
Celina City Safety Service Director Tom Hitchcock this morning said interim police chief Calvin Freeman will decide when Regedanz will return to road patrol duties.
Hensley, 39, of 1107 Mott St., was shot twice by Regedanz - in the left arm and in the back shoulder area - at approximately 12:45 p.m. in the parking lot of Lakeshore Auto Sales along East Market Street. He was taken by squad to Coldwater hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The shooting occurred after several 911 calls were placed minutes earlier about a man on foot wearing shorts, sandals, no shirt and a cowboy hat, twirling a gun in the area of East Livingston Street. Regedanz responded about 12:41 p.m. and found Hensley at the dealership in the presence of an employee and another person.
According to "findings of fact and conclusion of law" documents from the grand jury, Regedanz held his weapon at a "low ready" position and began to approach Hensley issuing "loud, clear, verbal commands," identifying himself as a police officer. He instructed Hensley to drop his weapon and show his hands, the documents state. Witnesses reportedly verified Regedanz's actions.
Hensley told the two witnesses that he was "packing" and then pulled the pistol from his waistband and began to turn toward Regedanz, the grand jury documents state.
Wilson told the newspaper that Hensley "no doubt was turning aggressively toward Regedanz" when the officer's first shot struck him in the arm. The impact of the shot caused Hensley to "spin a bit" and reverse his momentum toward Regedanz, causing the second shot to strike his rear shoulder area and exit the front of his body, Wilson explained.
"Had the first shot not spun him, the second shot would have hit him square in the chest," he said.
The .22-caliber revolver Hensley was carrying was not loaded, the sheriff's report said. Authorities later found a .17-caliber rifle with a scope and ammunition for several firearms in Hensley's disabled Jeep parked at Kremer's Guns on East Livingston Street.
Wilson said the grand jury was given toxicology information that showed Regedanz had no drugs or alcohol in his system immediately following the shooting. Toxicology results on Hensley were not presented to jurors, he said.
"It's his (Hensley's) behavior and actions that were relevant, not his toxicology results," Wilson said.
Authorities said they knew Hensley had consumed food and a beer that morning at Celina Eagles between 11:20 a.m. and 12:22 p.m. Prior to that he had visited Kremer's Guns and shot target practice on the indoor range before walking to the McDonald's restaurant across the street.
Witnesses at the fast-food restaurant and the Celina Eagles described Hensley's behavior as "erratic" and said he was suffering from some type of mental health episode, jury documents state.
Members of the grand jury were told prior to making their decision that one month before the shooting Hensley was experiencing severe mental health problems including hearing voices in his head, talking to himself and failing to recognize or listen to people attempting to speak to him.
"The problem became so severe that in the weeks prior to (the shooting) Mr. Hensley's parents had considered calling law enforcement officials to have him placed in a mental health treatment facility," according to the documents.
Wilson said the mental health information was given to the grand jury "to try to explain how he was acting."
The presentation to the grand jury lasted more than three hours Thursday afternoon, he said.
Wilson noted that Clark County - with nearly 100,000 more residents than Mercer County - has investigated six officer-involved shootings in the last 12 years.