Crime Watch 8

Witness: Man fatally shot by trooper was ‘savable’; video shows scene

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – A Crawfordsville man who witnessed the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a 56-year-old man by an Indiana State Police trooper shared his concerns about the incident on Saturday. 

Kenneth Steen, a Army combat veteran, captured video that shows police surrounding 56-year-old Glenn A. Rightsell of Linden while he was on his knees Friday night on a rural stretch of highway.

“I thought somebody was just knocking on the door,” Steen said. “It didn’t really sound like gunshots to me.” 

Steen lives across the street from where the incident happened on U.S. 231 near Montgomery County Road 550 North. That’s near North Montgomery High School, about 15 miles south of Lafayette. 

A woman told the Journal Review her husband, Rightsell, had been working on her daughter’s car in front of the high school. 

After realizing the sounds Steen heard were gunshots, he rushed outside with his cellphone to take video. Steen saw a black sport-utility vehicle that police said had been found abandoned along the road earlier Friday as well as a white Dodge car. 

“I stepped outside and then I could see the guy on the ground in between the black SUV and the white Dodge and he was laying on his stomach with his hands in the air,” Steen said. “He wasn’t saying anything. He wasn’t doing anything.” 

Steen told News 8 he did not see the shooting, so he doesn’t know what lead up to it, but he said he is worried about how long Rightsell was on the ground after he was shot. 

Indiana State Police on Saturday issued a news release on the fatal shooting Friday night. The release said police were not yet releasing the name of the trooper who shot Rightsell. 

State police said the trooper had tagged the abandoned black Chevrolet Tahoe SUV shortly before 4 p.m. Friday on U.S. 231. 

That same trooper was driving on the same highway around 6:30 p.m. Friday and noticed the white Dodge car had pulled up in front of the Tahoe and had the hood open. 

According to state police, the trooper reportedly walked up to Rightsell while giving commands and Rightsell allegedly grabbed the gun that Rightsell had on his waist. 

The trooper shot Rightsell at least once, state police said. 

Steen said, “My big concern was, I’m not making a judgment on whether it was a justifiable shooting.

“I didn’t see that part. But, I’m concerned how long it took the officers to secure the scene and then the fact that they were allowing traffic to continue to go both northbound and southbound lanes completely uninhibited the entire time.” 

Steen estimated about 15 minutes passed from the time he heard gunshots to the time police took Rightsell into custody.

Steen said he was unsure how long after Rightsell was taken into custody that he was taken to the hospital. 

“He just laid out and bled there and died,” Steen said. “I do feel extremely bad for the family. Because, I think regardless of how the incident went down, the guy was savable.” 

State police said Rightsell died at Franciscan Health Crawfordsville hospital.

Friends of Rightsell said they will have a candlelight vigil for him at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Montgomery County Courthouse in downtown Crawfordsville.

The state police’s news release said any additional information on the fatal shooting will come from Montgomery County Prosecutor Joseph Buser, who would decide if any criminal charges will be filed.

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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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