Someone is physically attacking an officer of the law who is by himself. Meaning, he has no backup. Of course, you’re going to call 911 to report the incident if you have a phone handy. But as you wait for the police to arrive, do you get involved? Do you come to the aid of the officer, perhaps putting yourself in harm’s way to save his life?
What if you have a firearm nearby or on your person? How does that factor into the equation?
As you ponder those questions, consider the story of Kystie Jaehnen of Rising Sun, Indiana. She is now the subject of a civil lawsuit for coming to the aid of an officer in need.
Ms. Jaehnen shot and killed 25-year-old Justin Holland in February 2017 after she watched Holland “overpower,” according to eyewitnesses, an off-duty Indiana conservation officer who was responding to a call about a “disheveled man” in a “suspicious vehicle.” Despite just finishing his shift, the officer took up the call, arriving at the scene in his marked police cruiser.
Reports say that as the encounter escalated, the officer tried to put handcuffs on Holland. That’s when things between the two men got physical. Holland was getting the better of the officer. Believing that he may be reaching for the officer’s gun, Jaehnen who was in the area intervened. She shot Holland once in the shoulder, fatally wounding him. Jaehnen told authorities that she did so because she feared for the officer’s life.
Following an investigation, authorities opted not to bring criminal charges against Ms. Jaehnen. Along with witnesses that corroborated her account of the shooting and the events leading up to it, police found drugs in Holland’s car and in his system. A toxicology report revealed he was high on meth, marijuana methadone, benzodiazepines, and dextromethorphan.
Seems like an open-and-shut case. A tweaker resists arrest, gets physical with a cop, overpowers the officer and right before it gets really violent a law-abiding citizen steps in and saves the cop’s behind. Case closed! Maybe on the criminal side of the law — but not on the civil side.
Holland’s family is now suing Ms. Jaehnen, the officer and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The family alleges that Jaehnen used excessive and unjustified deadly force against Holland.
“What we understand is our guy was parked legally in front of someone’s house. It was taken out of context. The off-duty officer engages him and the woman comes out and shoots him,” said attorney Blake Maislin in an interview with Fox 19 Now.
“If the officer was truly in harm’s way and he was going to die, she had the right to defend him,” Maislin continued. “But over and over what we have is a story of somebody engaging somebody else and claiming self-defense.”
Sgt Bill Halbig, of the Aurora Police Department, believes the lawsuit is “ridiculous.”
“It was a life or death situation. When you have someone that is trying to get your gun deadly force is justified,” said Halbig.
“She didn’t ask for it. She came to his aide and ended that deadly situation — which could have been very deadly in my opinion to the conservation officer,” Halbig continued.
Halbig is now leading the charge to raise money for Jaehnen’s legal defense. He started a GoFundMe page. Thus far, it’s raised over $25,000.
“This case is about more than the right or wrong of one party suing another,” says Halbig on the GoFundMe page. “Imagine not being able to come to the aid of another person for fear of being sued, possibly to the point of bankruptcy. The case is about a person having the basic God-given right and the 2nd Amendment right to defend both yourself and others and without the fear of civil retribution.”