By GARY POPP
A Kentucky police officer who was assaulted at a Jeffersonville restaurant in late March says he’s appreciative of the witnesses who gave statements to police that resulted in the arrest of two men Thursday.
Keith Hillman, 53, a Jeffersonville resident and an officer with the Heritage Creek Police Department in Jefferson County, Kentucky, said Friday that he was shocked how quickly a conversation in Buckhead Mountain Grill restaurant parking lot about a dent in his vehicle escalated to brutal violence.
“I’ve never been a victim,” Hillman said. “I’ve always helped the victims.”
Hillman said he had taken his young daughter to one of his family’s favorite restaurants after a long day at the Louisville Zoo on March 30. Hillman said he was in his pickup truck when a vehicle driven by James Whobrey, 42, Shepherdsville, Kentucky, and occupied by Sebastian Racine, 40, Louisville, and his daughter pulled into an adjacent parking space. Hillman said he then heard a thud and realized Racine had struck his truck with the car’s door.
Moments later, Hillman found himself curled on the ground with fractures to his face and unable to stand because of a broken ankle.
Racine and Whobrey have each been charged with one count class C felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury to an endangered adult. Racine was additionally charged with class B criminal mischief — damaging property of another.
Each man was booked in the Clark County jail Thursday and released in less than three hours, after $7,500 bond payments were made. The men have provided statements to the Jeffersonville Police Department about what led up to the physical altercation, which conflict with Hillman’s account.
Hillman said he and his daughter were enjoying the warm spring weather and had gone to Buckhead hungry and worn out from an active day. After realizing a car door had struck his vehicle, Hillman said he exited his truck to inspect the damage. He said a Racine, a man he did not know, began walking toward the restaurant. He said he told Racine to come look at the damage to his vehicle, and that he wanted to exchange information.
Hillman said Racine refused to provide his name or other information, so he told him that he would get his information from the license plate on the car, and that is one of the last recollections Hillman said he has from the incident.
“I looked up and that is when he [Racine] sucker punched me,” Hillman said. “After he hit me, I was out of it. I blacked out.”
Witnesses told police that Racine continued to strike and kick Hillman before he, his child and Whobrey left the area.
When JPD responded to the incident at about 5 p.m., Hillman was found “ ... bleeding from his lip and nose, his left eye [was] swollen shut, and multiple knots on his forehead,” according to the affidavit.
Shortly after police left the scene, Racine contacted authorities to make a statement claiming his innocence. Later in the day, he went to police headquarters and spoke with an investigator. Two days later, Racine and Whobrey returned to the headquarters and gave additional statements.
Racine reported that the car door struck Hillman’s tire, not the body of the vehicle. He told police he had apologized to Hillman for striking his tire, and Hillman responded by cursing at him, coming toward him and threatening violence.
“[Racine] stated that Hillman chest-bumped him, knocking him back. He came toward Hillman, and he said the fight was on,” according to the affidavit, adding that it was Hillman who threw the first punch.
Racine also told police that Hillman had told him, “I’m a cop, and I’m going to [expletive] kill you.”
Witnesses reported that Whobrey had also struck and kicked Hillman, but he claims that he was not involved in the assault, but had pulled Racine off of Hillman, “Because he thought it was overkill, and the fight was over.”
Hillman suffered fractures to his facial area, a broken ankle and received stitches on his lip while being treated at University of Louisville Hospital, according to the affidavit. Hillman said he never threatened either man, and that there was little interaction before the situation turned violent.
“No one was cussing at each other or anyone raising their voices,” he said. “We were arguing a little bit about the door. He was saying there was no dent.”
Hillman said he is most upset that he continued to be beaten after the first blow knocked him unconscious, but he’s also relieved that his sleeping daughter did not wake up in the vehicle to witness the assault.
He said the estimate to repair the dent in truck is $537.
Nearly three weeks after Racine and Whobrey gave statements to police, warrants were issued for their arrests.
No information on the men’s upcoming court dates is available on the county’s online court records.