Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Dustin Houchin issued a report this afternoon about the July 3rd City of Salem Police shooting between Chief Joey Wheeler and Mark Naugle, who died as a result of his wounds.
Naugle was found by the toxicology screening after the autopsy to have had Meth in his system.
The autopsy performed by pathologist Dr. Thomas Sozio also showed Naugle died from two gunshot wounds to the left arm and chest.
Chief Wheeler was observed by witnesses to have fired four shots, two of which struck Naugle.
Houchin stated there will be no charges filed and the case is closed. He did not find evidence of reckless homicide and noted Wheeler followed protocol in defending himself against Naugle, who was approaching him with a large roofing hammer that was nearly 17 inches long.
“I find that probable cause does not exist to charge Reckless Homicide in this instance,” Houchin stated in his report. “[Joey] Wheeler was trained, throughout his career, on well-accepted use of force standards. Wheeler acted in accordance with that training and in compliance with the Salem Police Department’s standard operating procedures using deadly force in carrying out his duties as a sworn law enforcement officer.”
Wheeler was not in possession of a tazer and Houchin said Wheeler was “not required to employe a CED (tazer) prior to use of deadly force.”
Houchin notes that evidence indicated Wheeler employed non-lethal tactics, including verbal commands prior to resorting to lethal force to no effect.
“Wheeler was confronted with an imminent risk of serious bodily injury to himself and to others,” Houchin writes. “Because of this, it cannot be said that his conduct was reckless, in that it was not in plain, conscious and unjustifiable disregard for harm that might result, and did not involve a substantial deviation from acceptable standards of conduct — those standards being the use of force protocol, and guidance from the US Supreme Court, Indiana Courts, and Indiana Code.”
Houchin said he found Wheeler had a valid self-defense claim.
“The State cannot reasonably expect to disprove Wheeler’s self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt in a trial under these facts,” noted Houchin. “By all accounts, Naugle was aggressively approaching Wheeler with a deadly weapon at the time the shots were fired. Naugle, agitated and armed with a hammer, instigated the confrontation and had the capacity to inflict serious bodily injury or death upon Wheeler, (Natalie) Boling and (Randy) Lee. Naugle never communicated an intent to retreat or end the confrontation.
“Naugle was well within the standard 21 feet observed by long-standing police officer training,” wrote Houchin. “In addition, Wheeler’s actions were objectively reasonable given the totality of the circumstances, which is the current guidance on these matters from the US Supreme Court, Wheeler’s use of deadly force in self-defense of others was reasonable.”
HOW IT ALL STARTED
According to the Indiana State Police investigation, Naugle began to exhibit signs of agitation while working on a construction site near the Washington County Fairgrounds on July 3.
Indiana State Police Detective Matt Busick interviewed Naugle’s employer (who is never identified by the police). The employer picked up Naugle for work that morning and delivered him to a construction site.
The employer told police he had to leave the job site and when he returned, Naugle was “acting strangely.”
The employer told police that at approximately 1p, Salem Police Officer Tim Miller arrived near the job site to conduct a VIN check.
The employer told police that once Naugle saw the police car, he started walking towards it with his hammer, but did not engage with Miller.
The employer said once Miller was inside the nearby office building, Naugle began “cursing the police and criminal justice system in general, and he thought Naugle was going to hit the police car with the hammer.”
The employer told police he called Naugle back over to the construction site and tried to calm him down.
According to Detective Busick, Naugle advised his employer that he needed to go to the nearby creek to “cool off.”
The employer told police that he allowed Naugle to do so and followed him a short way and observed him still to be agitated and talking to himself.
The employer said he went to check on Naugle after about 20 minutes and could not find him.
Randy Lee, Groundskeeper of the Washington County Fairgrounds, told police he received a call from a person working at the fairgrounds, that a suspicious person was on the property near the creek.
In a phone conversation on July 6, Lee told WSLM “I got a call from the racetrack people because I’d been down there mowing all day. They wanted to know if I had someone down there working. I said, No, I didn’t have anybody. Sometimes I get community service workers. They said a person was acting weird… picking up imaginary boxes and stuff like that. Looked like he was stacking them,” said Lee.
“So I just told them I’d come down and check them out,” Lee continued. “I went down there and went up to the man and he started cussing me. Me not knowing what kind of a deal it was. When I went down there and hollered at him – ‘Hey, buddy are you alright?’ He said ‘Fuck You, get the Hell out of here until I’m calmed down. I’m trying to figure out how to get the hell out of this tree.'”
At that point, Lee called the Salem Police Department.
Lee said Salem Police Chief Joey Wheeler arrived in plain clothes.
Lee told police he told Wheeler where Naugle was located and that Naugle was being belligerent.
Lee told WSLM on July 6 “I noticed Joey didn’t have a gun. I told Joey — the guy was very belligerent and told him I believe I’d take something with me just in case.”
Lee said Wheeler got his gun out of the vehicle.
Salem Police Officer Natalie Boling arrived at the scene shortly afterward. She had been assisting with a car accident when she heard the call of a suspicious person at the fairgrounds.
She was in uniform, equipped with a firearm and a tazer.
In her statement, Boling said she wrapped up her duties at the car accident and proceeded to the fairgrounds.
Lee told police he, Wheeler and Boling proceeded to the creek area to check on Naugle.
Lee told police Wheeler identified himself to Naugle as a police officer and Lee said Naugle cussed at him and started to walk away.
Lee said Wheeler again identified himself as a police officer and asked Naugle if everything was ok.
Lee said Naugle then stopped walking, turned around and took a hammer out of his tool belt he was wearing.
Lee told WSLM Naugle was wearing pants, a white t-shirt and the tool belt with the large roofing hammer.
“[He] pulled out the hammer…a big Eastwing framing hammer,” Lee said on July 6. “He started charging us. I and Joey started hollering at him, stop and drop the hammer. You would have just had to see the rage this guy was in.”
Lee told Busick that Naugle was approximately 30 feet away when he pulled the hammer out of his belt.
Lee told police Naugle was holding the hammer with the claw of the hammer pointed toward Wheeler and that Naugle had the hammer drawn back in a striking position.
At that point, Lee told police Wheeler drew his firearm and ordered Naugle to stop but according to Lee, Naugle continued to advance.
Lee said that Wheeler fired one shot, not striking the man, and ordered Naugle to stop.
According to Lee, Naugle continued to advance.
Lee said Wheeler fired a second time hitting the man.
Lee continued to WSLM “When someone is high like that… I’ve seen people complain, why didn’t they use a tazer…that tazer wasn’t going to do crap. You would have had to be there to see the rant and rage of this guy. I want to clear this up.”
Lee told police that although the man was hit the 2nd time, he didn’t drop the hammer. Lee said after 10 more seconds a third and fourth-round were fired back to back.
“Joey fired the first shot. It more or less just pissed [Naugle] off,” Lee told WSLM on July 6. “He kept coming. We were backing away. Joey fired the second shot. He kept telling Joey, ‘Fucking Cowardly Bastard’ and calling him all kinds of names. We had no idea who it was…it didn’t even look like [Naugle]. When Joey fired the 3rd and 4th shot, he went down to one knee…still cussing. He stayed that way until he bled out.”
Lee told police when Wheeler shot Naugle, they were approximately 6-7 feet apart with Naugle advancing and Wheeler moving back.
Lee said he believed Naugle would have struck Wheeler with the hammer.
ISP Detective Travis Baker interviewed Chief Wheeler and learned that the Salem Police Department received a call from Lee at approximately 1:45p. The caller advised police of a suspicious and possibly intoxicated male at the fairgrounds.
The Washington County EMS was toned after the shooting at 1:59:27 so the events unfolded in about 14 minutes.
Wheeler told Baker other City of Salem officers were busy working a car crash, so he decided to respond to the call.
According to the State Police, Wheeler was in plain clothes and had his badge clipped to his belt.
Baker noted in the report that Wheeler had a firearm but did not have a tazer.
Wheeler told Baker that upon arriving at the fairgrounds, Boling arrived on the scene and Lee advised him on where Naugle was located.
Wheeler told the police as they got closer, they could hear Naugle talking loudly.
Wheeler advised that he then approached the man, identified himself as a police officer and requested to speak to Naugle.
Wheeler advised that Naugle became aggressive, pulled a hammer from the utility belt he was wearing and began advancing toward the officers and Lee.
Wheeler advised he pulled out his duty weapon when the man ignored verbal commands to stop and drop the hammer.
Wheeler told police Naugle continued to advance aggressively with the hammer and Wheeler said he discharged his weapon until the man stopped approaching.
Wheeler advised that the shots he fired hit the man, and he tumbled around and fell near the creek.
Wheeler advised that he was in fear for his life and the lives of the others present (Lee and Boling).
Wheeler told police he immediately called for assistance via radio and relinquished his duty weapon to Miller, who was the first to arrive at the scene.
ISP Detective Baker interviewed Officer Boling, who has since taken a job at the Brownstown Police Department.
Boling told police after Wheeler identified himself as a police officer, Naugle began walking away, then turned abruptly, pulled a hammer from his tool belt, and began walking toward them.
Boling advised that Wheeler was approximately 10 feet in front of her giving Naugle verbal commands to drop the hammer.
Boling told police Naugle ignored the commands, kept advancing toward them with the hammer and Wheeler unholstered his duty weapon and shot the man.
Boling said she believed Wheeler shot more than three times and advised Naugle was close to Wheeler when he shot.
She told police that after Naugle was shot, he stumbled and fell.
She advised that she went to the man and moved the hammer from his reach.
Naugle told police she made an assessment about rendering aid but did not attempt to render aid at that time because it was clear it would not have had an effect.
Indiana State Police Crime Scene Investigators Merrit Toomey and Phil D Angelo conducted a crime scene investigation on the afternoon of July 3.
The investigators took photographs, 3D digital images, made drawings and measurements, collected blood spatter evidence, shell casings, Wheeler’s firearm, Naugle’s hammer, and surveillance video.
According to the State Police, the blood spatter evidence is consistent with the witness statements.
Wheeler’s firearm was identified as a Glock 9mm GEN5.
The metal framing hammer was 16.6″ long and 5.7″ wide.
The surveillance video from the fairgrounds confirms that Naugle was in the area and confirms the times’ officers arrived on the scene but did not capture the incident.
Below is the full text of the police report issued today by Prosecutor Houchin.