News and Tribune

December 12, 2012

ISP continues investigation of Jeffersonville Police Department incident

JPD declines comment on incident, officers’ conduct

By GARY POPP
gary.popp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — The Indiana State Police confirmed Tuesday it has started an investigation into a fight that occurred at a Jeffersonville bar involving two off-duty Jeffersonville police officers and a 27-year-old patron.

Master Trooper Mary Sanchez, who is acting as a spokesperson and is not involved in the investigation, said ISP will treat the investigation as it would any incident.

“We will conduct interviews with witnesses, the officers and the complainant,” she said.

Sanchez said ISP’s investigation will not include any recommendations to the city of Jeffersonville or its police department, but that findings from the investigation will be turned over directly to Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart’s office.

“All we are doing is putting in the facts as they are stated to us,” she said. “It will be up to them [prosecutors] whether or not to issue any charges.”

Sanchez said it is unclear when the ISP will close its investigation.

“There are many witnesses to interview,” she said, adding that it is difficult to arrange interviews when people are busy with the holiday season.

ISP’s investigation follows a Nov. 30 request from Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore and Jeffersonville Police Chief Chris Grimm that the agency conduct an independent investigation into the incident, which occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 24.

Moore and Grimm also requested JPD conduct an internal investigation into the incident, “to determine whether proper policies and procedures were followed as a result of the alleged incident,” Moore said last month.

Jeffersonville police responded to The Lighthouse Restaurant and Lounge about 2:15 a.m. on a call of a fight involving Jeffersonville Police Maj. Leslie Kenny Kavanaugh Jr., 40, Jeffersonville Police Officer Toby D. Deaton, 39, and Lucas Wohlleb, of Jeffersonville.

Kavanaugh and Deaton each submitted written accounts to JPD of what transpired before uniformed officers arrived at the restaurant.

Both accounts make reference to Wohlleb acting aggressively toward Kavanaugh and making multiple threats to cut people’s ears off.

Kavanaugh’s report makes no mention of Wohlleb being struck, while Deaton’s report details that he [Deaton] struck Wohlleb several times during the incident.

During an interview with the News and Tribune, however, Wohlleb dismissed the officers’ claims that he threatened to cut of anyone’s ears and said he didn’t think any of his actions from the night in question could have been perceived as aggressive behavior.

Wohlleb said he was held down by Kavanaugh as Deaton landed the blows that knocked him unconscious. Wholleb submitted photos of his bruised face to the News and Tribune, alleging the injuries were sustained during the altercation.

One of the responding JPD officers listed offenses of battery, a class A misdemeanor, punishable up to a year incarceration, disorderly conduct and public intoxication on the incident report.

While three offenses were listed as having taken place, Wohlleb was able to leave the establishment and no arrests were made.

Jeffersonville Police Department’s administration have declined to comment on the incident, but Jeffersonville police Detective Todd Hollis did say the officers involved in the physical dispute have had no change in their assignments as police officers.