Jackson County Prosecutor Jeffrey A. Chalfant has issued a decision on the April officer-involved shooting that resulted in the dead of Barry Alan Rucker.
Chalfant concludes that Brownstown Police Chief Tom Hanner and Assistant Chief Joe Kelly were justified in using deadly force against Rucker, who was involved in an altercation at the local police department.
Summary of Conclusion: On April 3, 2019 at approximately 8:29 a.m. in Brownstown, Indiana, Brownstown Police Department Chief Tom Hanner and Assistant Chief Joe Kelly lawfully used deadly force against Barry Alan Rucker in an act of self-defense.
Applicable law: Indiana law provides that a law enforcement officer has the same right as any other person to assert self-defense under Indiana Code 35-41-3-2. The use of deadly force is authorized in Indiana when a person reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to that person or a third person – Indiana Code 35-41-3-2(c).
Summary of investigation: The Indiana State Police, by way of lead investigator Andrew Mitchell and with the assistance of other Indiana State Police investigators, conducted a thorough investigation, which consisted of multiple witness interviews, review of videos and documents.
On the morning of April 3, 2019 Kathryn Branaman took her daughter to school in Brownstown, and then drove away in her pick-up truck. Branaman reached behind the truck seats and felt and then saw Barry Rucker who was hiding in the back of the truck. Ms. Branaman previously had been in a relationship with Mr. Rucker, but the relationship ended in late 2018 after Mr. Rucker had threatened Ms. Branaman with a machete. Mr. Rucker pulled out a handgun, pointed it at Ms. Branaman, and told her to drive into the country. Ms. Branaman instead drove to the Brownstown Police Department and ran inside to get help.
The Brownstown Police Department is a small department, and the only two officers on duty were assisting with traffic at the local schools.
Mr. Rucker pursued Ms. Branaman into the Brownstown Police Department, drug her outside, and said to Ms. Branaman, “I’m gonna kill you [expletive]. You better get out. I’ll shoot you right here.”
A citizen driving by noticed the struggle, called 911, and reported the man had a gun.
Chief Hanner and Assistant Chief Kelly arrived and confronted Mr. Rucker.
Chief Hanner’s body camera captured significant portions of the encounter. The officers ordered Mr. Rucker away from Ms. Branaman and to show his hands, but Mr. Rucker did not cooperate.
The officers attempted to use “less lethal” measures by their use of Tasers on Mr. Rucker, but the Tasers did not completely incapacitate Mr. Rucker.
After Mr. Rucker fell to the ground, he pointed a handgun at Chief Hanner.
The handgun is visible in Mr. Rucker’s hands on Chief Hanner’s body camera video. The officers told Mr. Rucker repeatedly to drop his weapon, but Mr. Rucker did not comply and remained a deadly force threat to the officers.
The firearm that Mr. Rucker was armed with was a handgun which by design was capable of firing shotgun shells, and was in fact loaded with shotgun shells.
Chief Hanner and Assistant Chief Kelly shot Mr. Rucker. Law enforcement officers with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department responded and rendered emergency medical aid to Mr. Rucker.
The Jackson County Ambulance Service transported Mr. Rucker to Schneck Medical Center, where Mr. Rucker was pronounced dead.
An autopsy revealed that Mr. Rucker died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The autopsy also revealed that Mr. Rucker’s blood contained Methamphetamine and Fentanyl.
The Indiana State Police investigated the incident and forwarded the investigation to the Office of the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney for review.
Conclusion: Brownstown Police Department Chief Tom Hanner and Assistant Chief Joe Kelly were faced with an actual deadly force threat on April 3, 2019. Pursuant to Indiana law the officers were justified in using deadly force to protect themselves and citizens in the area from that threat and there is no criminal liability on the part of the officers. Chief Hanner and Assistance Chief Kelly and the citizen who called 911 most likely saved Kathryn Branaman’s life.