News and Tribune

November 30, 2012

Jeffersonville Police Department incident to be investigated

Mayor Moore requests State Police investigate bar-room brawl involving two off-duty officers


JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore and Jeffersonville Police Chief Chris Grimm made a formal request Friday for the Indiana State Police to conduct an independent investigation of a fight that occurred at a Jeffersonville bar involving two off-duty Jeffersonville police officers and a 27-year-old bar patron.

Jeffersonville police responded to The Lighthouse Restaurant & Lounge, located along Main Street across from Jeff Boat, on a fight call about 2:15 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24.

On the incident report, police listed offenses of battery, disorderly conduct and public intoxication, but no arrests were made when officers responded.

Those involved in the physical dispute were Maj. Lesile Kenny Kavanaugh Jr., 40, and Officer Toby Deaton, 39, and Lucas Wohlleb, of Jeffersonville.

After officers responded, Wohlleb — a Jeff Boat employee, according to his FaceBook page — was allowed to leave the establishment with a sober driver, according to police reports.

Kavanaugh and Deaton each drafted reports of what occurred during the incident.

Jeffersonville police officials said Thursday that the reports were considered confidential and not available for public viewing, but later in the day the reports were released.

Jeffersonville police administrators declined on multiple occasions Thursday and Friday to provide comment on what occurred during the incident, beyond the information included in the reports.

During an interview on Friday, Wohlleb said he was at the establishment for about an hour when he bumped into a table where Kavanaugh was sitting, and that a drink may have been spilled.

He said Kavanaugh stood up and the two men exchanged words for about a minute and a half.

“The next thing I knew, he (Kavanaugh) had me on the ground and some guy (Deaton) was whaling on my face,” Wohlleb said.

Wohlleb said the blows to his face knocked him unconscious. He said he does not recall what happened after he was knocked out, but later woke with multiple bruises and scars on his face.

He said that Kavanaugh held him down as Deaton delivered the blows.

“I have been going to that bar for five years and never had a problem once, until the other night,” he said.

Wohlleb said he has picked up a complaint form from the police department which he plans on officially filing today, and that he additionally intends to file a lawsuit.

Wohlleb said he did not physically assault either of the officers during the incident and that he doesn’t think his actions could have been perceived as aggressive behavior.

 “I feel like I was battered by two cops for no reason,” Wohlleb said. “They are supposed to be role models for people, but they want to hold me down and beat me.”

In a statement released by the city Friday, Moore said an investigation is appropriate to discover if the officers committed an misconduct during the incident.

“The Chief and I feel an independent investigation is warranted under these circumstances to determine whether any laws were violated,” Moore stated in the letter. “Such alleged incidents make it imperative that the department adheres to its own policies and procedures. If those policies were not followed, then appropriate actions should be taken.”

According to both of the off-duty officers’ reports, Kavanaugh was at The Lighthouse in the early hours of Saturday morning and was met there by Deaton.

In each of the reports, the men state they were first approached by Wohlleb while they were waiting in line to use the restroom.

Deaton reported that an unknown male, later identified as Wohlleb, “approached Kavanaugh and grabbed him in an aggressive manner.”

According to Deaton’s account, he was initially unsure if Kavanaugh knew the man and the two were just horse playing, or if there was a possible problem.

“Kavanaugh attempted to step away from (Wohlleb) and (Wohlleb) continued to place his hands on Kavanaugh and stay in his private place,” Deaton put in his detail report.

Kavanaugh reported that he countered Wohlleb’s actions by putting him in a wrist lock, gaining control of him and then releasing him.

In his report, Kavanaugh stated he asked Wohlleb if he knew him at which time Wohlleb said, “No” and “I run this bar.”

Deaton reported that as he attempted to step between the two men, he observed Wohlleb coming back toward Kavanaugh.

“I placed my open hands up attempting to stop (Wohlleb). As I did this, I heard (Wohlleb) say ‘I run this bar’ and stated to me “(expletive) you mother (expletive), I will gut you,’” according to Deaton’s report.

Deaton wrote in his report that he then told Wohlleb he and Kavanaugh did not want any problems.

“(Wohlleb) got in my face in an aggressive manner and stated, ‘I will cut your (expletive) ear off,’” Deaton reported in the police detail report.

Both officers reported that Wohlleb made several comments regarding cutting off peoples’ ears.

Wohlleb was shocked Friday to hear that the officers reported that he made comments of cutting anyone’s ears off, adding, “Who am I, Mike Tyson?”

Deaton reported that he again told the man he and Kavanaugh did not want any problems.

Each of the officers reported they determined Wohlleb to be intoxicated and possibly unstable based on his slurred speech, hostile manner, bloodshot eyes and unstable attitude after interacting with him.

Deaton reported he attempted to calm Wohlleb down, when Kavanaugh intervened and informed Wohlleb that he and Deaton were both police officers and that he had made a threat.

As Kavanaugh spoke with Wohlleb, Deaton reported, he appeared to calm down, at which time Kavanaugh and Wohlleb moved into separate areas of the business.

Kavanaugh reported that he noticed Wohlleb continuing to act aggressively throughout the establishment and directed The Lighthouse wait staff to deliver food they were waiting on toward the dining area and away from Wohlleb.

Kavanaugh reported that shortly afterward, Wohlleb approached the area and repeated threats of cutting a person’s ear off.

Kavanaugh’s account states  he stepped between Wohlleb and another man in the area, at which time Wohlleb continued to make references to using an edged weapon.

Kavanaugh reported that he told Wohlleb to leave.

“(Wohlleb) did not comply and became more agitated and began posturing towards (me) in preparing for an aggressive action,” Kavanaugh put into his police detail.

He continues that he then put Wohlleb in an arm bar behind his back and began to move him towards the front door and away from several people in his immediate area.

“(Wohlleb) broke free and was placed directly on the ground by (me) raising (my) right arm up, placing him face down to the ground,” his report includes.

He reported that Wohlleb came up aggressively, and he responded by forcefully driving him directly at the front door in attempt to get him out of the business and away from the people nearby.

“(Wohlleb) came to rest being adjacent to the right of the entrance/exit door through his aggressive actions with (me) being located on the ground at his feet,” Kavanaugh wrote in the report.

Kavanaugh makes no mention in his report of Wohlleb being struck by Deaton, but Deaton’s account includes him hitting Wohlleb multiple times.

“As I entered the dining room, I observed both individuals on the ground and chairs knocked over,” Deaton reported. “(Wohlleb) was on the ground and Kavanaugh was towards his feet.”

Deaton reported that he ran into the dining room and engaged Wohlleb, fearing the situation had or could escalate into a stabbing based on previous threats.

“I struck (Wohlleb) in the head area in an attempt to gain control of the subject,” Deaton reported.

Deaton noted in his report that he continued, at this time, to fear what Wohlleb had possibly done to Kavanaugh or what he was going to possibly do.

“The subject was still engaged in combat, so (Wohlleb) was struck again to gain control of the subject. Due to his combative actions (Wohlleb) was struck on multiple occasions until his aggressive behavior stopped,” Deaton wrote in his report.

At the end of Deaton’s report he states that prior to contacting police, he was informed they had been called to the scene, and he walked outside to direct uniformed officers toward the problem.

In addition to the ISP investigation requested by Moore and Grimm, they are requesting the Jeffersonville police conduct its own investigation to “determine whether policies and procedures were followed as a result of he alleged incident,” according to a letter released by the city.