I-Team 8

Widow of man shot by Indiana trooper files lawsuit

(WISH) — On Monday, the widow of a man shot and killed last December by a state trooper filed a lawsuit against three different law enforcement agencies and four law enforcement officers.

Gloria Rightsell’s complaint is regarding a shooting last December, where an Indiana State Trooper shot her husband.

The lawsuit gets at two big issues for Gloria Rightsell:

  • why Glenn was shot at all
  • and the time it took for Glenn to get medical attention.

In December 2018, an ISP trooper shot Glenn Rightsell, outside Crawfordsville. His family says the 56-year-old was working on his daughter’s car, which had broken down along the side of a rural state road.

ISP said a trooper had tagged the abandoned SUV that evening. That same trooper was driving on the same highway around 6:30 p.m. Friday and noticed a white Dodge car had pulled up in front of the Tahoe and had the hood open.

According to ISP, the trooper walked up to Rightsell while giving commands and Rightsell allegedly grabbed the gun that Rightsell had on his waist. Gloria Rightsell and her lawyers say the trooper fired five times, hitting Glenn in the face.

“They said, ‘Oh it will get better with time,’ but it doesn’t,” said Gloria Rightsell, at the announcement of the lawsuit.

“Your husband dies of a heart attack, that’s one thing. Your husband dies, gets shot, then you find out its the Indiana State Police that shot him, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what went wrong?’”

Rightsell and her attorneys say Glenn was alive when he got to the hospital and could have lived, if he had been given medical attention sooner. When Gloria got to the hospital, she says she was not allowed to see her husband, and instead was brought into a room and questioned by police.

The complaint names Indiana State Police and the trooper who fired on Rightsell, the Montgomery County Sheriff Department and two deputies, and the City of Crawfordsville and one officer.

Rightsell’s complaint asks for a jury trial and for compensation for costs associated with her husband’s death and emotional distress.

Earlier this year, the Montgomery County prosecutor said there was not enough evidence to prove the state trooper involved committed a crime.

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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