Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gray v. County of Starke

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 29, 2017

Robert Gray, Jr., Appellant,
v.
County of Starke, Indiana, Appellee.

         Appeal from the Porter Superior Court The Honorable Mary Harper, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 64D05-1603-PL-1980

          Attorney for Appellant Andrew R. Duncan Ruckelshaus, Kautzman, Blackwell, Bemis & Hasbrook Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Martin R. Lucas North Judson, Indiana

          Bailey, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] The Sheriff of Starke County, Indiana recommended the termination of Deputy Robert Gray, Jr. ("Gray") from the Starke County Sheriff's Department after he slapped a pre-trial detainee. After a public hearing, the Starke County Sheriff's Merit Board ("the Merit Board") terminated Gray's employment. The termination was upheld on judicial review and Gray now appeals that order. We affirm.

         Issues

         [¶2] Gray presents two issues for review:

I. Whether, as a matter of law, a termination decision arising from an alleged violation of a law enforcement department rule on use of force must be determined with reference to the excessive force standard of objective reasonableness enunciated in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989); and
II. Whether the termination is reversible because the trial court erroneously found that the termination decision was supported by substantial evidence by reweighing evidence, assessing witness credibility, and making its own factual findings.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] Gray was hired in December of 2012 as a member of the Starke County Sheriff's Department. On April 29, 2014, while on-duty in the Starke County Jail, Gray became involved in a verbal and physical incident with a pre-trial detainee, J.S. As J.S. made noises as if to spit, or as she spat, Gray slapped J.S. and exclaimed, "Don't you f----g spit on people." (Hearing Ex. D.)

         [¶4] Oscar Cowen, the Sheriff of Starke County, and his successor, William Dulin, filed written charges against Gray. As amended, the allegations concerned violations of four sections of the Starke County Sheriff's Department Rules ("Rules"), that is: (1) Rule 4-2.2 Conduct Unbecoming to an Officer, (2) Rule 4-2.21 Treatment of Persons in Custody, (3) Rule 4-2.23 Use of Force, and (4) Rule 4-4.3 Courtesy. The Sheriff charged that Gray "slapped or struck with his hands a custodial prisoner … while she was seated in a restraint chair with her arms restrained, " "did shake his finger or hand in the face of a custodial prisoner in a threatening or menacing manner, " and "held his hand over the mouth and neck of a custodial prisoner." (Tr. at 12.)

         [¶5] On October 27, 2015, the Merit Board conducted a hearing on the charges. The relevant facts, as found by the Merit Board, included the following:

[J.S.] was taken to the conference room for causing disturbances to other inmates. Assisting Robert with restraining [J.S.] was Matthew Wiles, an employee of the Starke County Sheriff's Department. After being escorted to the conference room, [J.S.] was initially left but monitored by video. On numerous occasions she ran into the conference room door and made loud screaming noises. … [J.S.] was seen punching a sleeping pad numerous times and taking her clothes partially off. At some point, Robert spoke with [J.S.] and attempted to get her to calm down. [J.S.] put her fingers near Robert's face. Robert placed [J.S.]'s arm in a lock behind her to prevent her from swinging at him or causing him physical injury. Once released, [J.S.] became agitated again. At this time, Robert and Matthew Wiles decided to place [J.S.] in a restraint chair.
While attempting to restrain [J.S.]'s feet in the restraint chair, Robert forcefully and open-handedly slapped [J.S.] across the left side of her face. … Following the slap across the face, Robert cupped [J.S.]'s chin with his hand and pushed her head backwards. After she was secured, Robert and Matthew exited the conference room.
It was common knowledge that [J.S.] suffered from several mental illnesses. … Robert testified that he knew [J.S.] was mentally ill at the time of this incident. . . .
The evidence supports that [J.S.] was making vulgar comments to Robert and Matthew Wiles before and during the time that they were restraining her. … The video does not ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.