Special Prosecutor: Man With Dementia May Have Planned Suicide By Cop; Officers Won't Be Charged

An Indiana State Police trooper and a Dearborn County Sheriff's deputy have been cleared of wrongdoing in a deadly shooting.

Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel (right) holds a press conference about a January 2019 officer-involved shooting in Dearborn County on Wednesday, May 1. Indiana State Police Detective Chris Tucker (left) was the lead investigator on the case. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.

(Dearborn County, Ind.) - No criminal charges will be brought against either an Indiana State Police trooper or a Dearborn County Sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man while responding to a domestic disturbance in January.

Prosecutors announced Wednesday that Trooper Jordan Craig and Deputy Brian Weigel each acted within their department's standard operating procedures in using deadly force against 58-year-old Christopher Schmitt.

Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel, a special prosecutor on the case, indicated that Schmitt may have planned to commit suicide by cop by pointing a BB gun at officers.

“He stated to his wife that it was going to be his day to die. He had an epiphany and he came toward police officers with a weapon and lowered the weapon. It does give some evidence of that,” said Hertel.

The scene at the Schmitt home in Sunman on January 12, 2019. Photo by Indiana State Police.

The two officers had responded to Schmitt’s home on Five Points Road in Sunman, within Dearborn County, the morning of January 12, 2019. They each observed a struggle within the home between a man and a woman later determined to be Schmitt and his wife.

Schmitt came out onto the home’s deck and lowered a long gun at Trooper Craig.

Craig fired twice on Schmitt. Weigel fired four times.

Schmitt was hit by four bullets. He was pronounced dead after being transported to Margaret Mary Health in Batesville.

Next to Schmitt’s body on the deck was the weapon he pointed at the trooper, which was determined to be a BB gun or air rifle.

An autopsy report completed earlier this month by the Hamilton County, Ohio Coroner’s Office determined Schmitt died from bleeding out from the gunshots. Toxic concentrations of ethanol and hydrocode with cyclobenzaprine, zolpidem, and alprazolam were present in his system.

Hertel was assigned by Dearborn Circuit Court Judge James D. Humphrey to the case due to the involvement of a Dearborn County officer.

In his report filed Wednesday, he observed that Indiana law gives officers the ability to use deadly force when they fear for their own lives or the lives of others. In interviews which took place about 48 hours after the shooting, both Craig and Weigel told Indiana State Police investigators from the ISP Sellersburg Post that they feared for their lives.

“That’s why I made the findings that they acted pursuant to protocol,” said Hertel.

He added that both officers were likely on high alert because the dispatch indicated that weapons were involved. Also, domestic altercations can be among the most dangerous situations officers encounter.

Hertel said Schmitt’s wife had hidden a real shotgun from her husband earlier in the day. In her interview with police, the wife said Christopher suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He was also suicidal. She called her brother for advice and then called 911.

Although the officers have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, a civil case could still be brought. The prosecutor explained that a civil lawsuit would be outside of his purview.

Both Trooper Craig and Deputy Weigel have returned to their normal duties, Hertel said.

RELATED STORIES:

Press Conference Planned For January Officer-Involved Shooting

Special Prosecutor Assigned To Dearborn Co. Officer-Involved Shooting

UPDATE: Suspect, Officers Identified In Dearborn Co. Shooting

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