Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Thugs Assaulting Police: The Dangers of Intervention

Kystie Jaehnen
On February 20, 2017 Justin Holland, 25, died after Kystie Jaehnen fired a single round in defense of a police officer whom Holland was assaulting. A 911 call concerning a suspicious person who was parked in an elderly person’s yard for an extended period of time prompted a response from Officer Michael Powell. When Officer Powell tried to handcuff Holland he began to resist and both fell to the ground.

During the altercation, Officer Powell stated that he felt Holland applying pressure on his retention holster and attempting to draw his duty pistol. Kystie Jaehnen who was standing nearby on her property ran to help Officer Powell. Kystie could see that Officer Powell was losing the fight as Holland reached for Powell’s gun. Kystie was armed and shot Howell one time which ended the fight. Toxicology results from Holland’s autopsy found meth, benzodiazepines, marijuana, methadone, and dextromethorphan in his system.

Justin Holland
The Indiana State Police conducted an investigation, that the Dearborn County Prosecutors Office subsequently reviewed, and the findings were that Kystie’s actions were justified and merited no criminal charges.

Did Kystie Jaehnen see herself as a would-be hero?  I doubt it; however, many people do. Over the years I’ve heard numerous discussions about some fantasy “gunfight” where the good guy steps-in, stops some atrocity, and then rides off into the sunset as a hero. Anyone who thinks that getting involved in a deadly force encounter that does not directly affect you will bring certain glory, gratitude, and universal praise is delusional. Imaginary scenarios have none of the blood, suffering, untidiness, and ambiguity that exists in the real world which often lands on the would-be hero’s head like a ton of bricks. 

If the person you rescued doesn’t make life miserable for you in the courts, they just might try to kill you. Many years ago a friend of mine stopped at a somewhat seedy bar for a drink. As he entered, he saw a man beating a woman. Without thinking he stepped forward and tried to intervene to protect the erstwhile victim. Within moments, he found himself the focus of an attack by the man and (to his shock) the woman he thought he was rescuing. It seems that she did not allow someone to hit her man and made that fact very clear when she kicked him in the face after she had knocked him down with a surprise blow to the head from behind. My friend was lucky he did not receive severe permanent injury—they could have literally beaten him to death. 

If ingratitude isn’t enough we need to understand that in many instances things are not what they seem. What appears to be a kidnapping may be a father’s attempt to exercise legitimate parental authority over a child reluctant to leave the mall. Intervening may not only be ill advised but we may be inadvertently injecting additional chaos into an otherwise manageable situation. 

Even if the situation is exactly as it appears and you are acting within the letter of the law, does that mean you cannot be arrested, indicted, and tried for your actions? No, it does not—ask George Zimmerman. Do you really want to spend every penny you have and potentially several years in jail waiting for an appeal to be heard and your conviction overturned?

Even if you are not prosecuted criminally, you could still face civil litigation as Kystie Jaehnen is now. On 6 April 2018, Kystie received a summons from Blake R Maislin LLC, (Thomas J Dall, Attorney at Law) regarding a wrongful death lawsuit for the assailant, Justin K. Holland. Ohio County Superior Court Case No.:58C01-1802-CT-00001.

The suit among many other things alleges that Defendant Michael C. Powell and Defendant Kystie Jaehnen reached an understanding, engaged in a sequence of events or course of conduct, and otherwise agreed and conspired (conspired!!) together to violate Holland’s constitutional rights. Read the entire suit here. 


Officer Powell is covered by his department and has the Fraternal Order of Police Legal Defense Fund to defend him in court. Since Kystie was acting as a private citizen, this suit potentially subjects her and her family to decades of poverty just to pay attorney fees. Situations that involve significant injury or death can be extremely expensive and just defending such a suit can easily top $100,000. See below to donate to a fund for Kystie’s legal expenses.

Should you be willing to jeopardize your home, your cars, your retirement, and your family’s security for a total stranger? To spend the rest of your life in jail? Perhaps—that is your decision. However, understand the potential consequences. If you screw up, you will go to jail. Even if you do everything right, you may end up being sued for everything you own and will ever own.

Freebore
If the only safety device you are carrying is a pistol, you have severely limited options. I typically carry a pistol, pepper spray, a cell phone, a flashlight, and a Freebore (shameless plug: order one here).

I carry these safety tools to protect myself and the people I love from the thugs that roam our streets. Is there a circumstance where I would intervene to help a stranger? Perhaps—an active killer situation comes to mind. However, this would be on my terms with an understanding of the potential consequences and after a careful evaluation of the totality of the circumstances as they appear. 

Once I was certain that I understood what was really going on (to the degree that you can in an unfolding situation) I would respond with the minimum amount of force necessary to resolve the issue whether that required drawing my cell phone, pepper spray, Freebore, or my pistol.

I’ve written about this before in Not my circus, Not my monkeys. That particular article received some remarkable comments from readers. Among them was a gentleman who said the following: “I think as a man. Anyone defenseless is your business. I have been to court four times and not once have my actions been questioned. Twice a man was beating his girlfriend. MY BUSINESS, one his wife. You just made your wife MY BUSINESS. And one his own daughter. Sorry I just adopted her until she's safe MY BUSINESS.” His opinion, his choice. 

Not my circus, Not my monkeys. The time to think carefully about who you are willing to defend is now. The time to become proficient in all of the safety tools at your disposal including your pistol, pepper spray, a Freebore or similar tool, and basic hand to hand techniques is before you find yourself facing a violent confrontation.

While I applaud and admire Kystie’s courage, I cannot in good conscience recommend such actions to my students. The potential consequences are simply too great in today’s litigious society. A quick look at the website of the law firm mentioned above (Blake R. Maislin, LLC) leads me to believe that the civil action against Kystie Jaehnen and Officer Powell is likely on a contingency fee basis for a percentage of the settlement or judgement. 

Is there justice in this civil action? That is certainly debatable; however, there is no question that the emotional and mental strain on Kystie likely immense. While Kystie is forced to pay for her representation, the Holland family is unlikely to suffer monetary consequences for filing the suit. 

Sergeant William Halbig with the Aurora Police Department has set up a fund for Kystie’s legal defense. Per SGT Halbig: The donations will not be used to settle the case - they are only to pay for Kystie's defense counsel and to protect her from an adverse verdict. Any excess funds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the FOP Police Benevolent Fund.

I donated one half day’s salary from my day job and I encourage you to donate as well. Every bit helps. To donate, go here: Kystie's Best Defense. 


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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this excellent synopsis of a difficult subject. This topic is one of the more interesting parts of my classes as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Tim--a difficult but important subject.

    ReplyDelete