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No charges in Feb. 14 shooting

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

There will be no criminal charges filed against the four officers who were involved in the fatal shooting of Travis D. Tucker, a 29-year-old Kokomo man who was killed in Wabash County on Feb. 14, Wabash County Prosecutor William Hartley Jr. confirmed on Monday.

Indiana State Police recently concluded their investigation into the three Wabash County Sheriff's deputies and one Huntington County Sheriff's deputy who fired at Tucker during the incident, the results of which were reviewed by Hartley who concluded that “the totality of evidence establishes this incident as a legally justifiable shooting by law enforcement.”

The incident took place in the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 14.

A description of the investigation released by Hartley's office on Monday states that Huntington County central dispatch received a call around 1:44 p.m. that day regarding a residential burglary that was reportedly in progress near Andrews. On that call, the homeowner reportedly stated that “he could see someone in his home by using his home security system and cameras,” the report says.

Tucker was identified as the suspect in that case, having reportedly stolen a shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition, the report says.

The report says Tucker was seen fleeing the residence for what was determined to be a stolen pickup truck, backed up next to the garage door, by Andrews Town Marshall Austin Bullock. Bullock drew his gun and ordered Tucker to show his hands when, the report says, Tucker quickly accelerated and nearly struck Bullock. Tucker then reportedly fled the residence and was able to avoid law enforcement for about two and a half hours before he was spotted in Wabash County around 4:11 p.m.

Officers from the Huntington County and Wabash County sheriff's departments responded to the tip, making contact with Tucker on Wabash County Road 400N, the report says.

Wabash County Sheriff's deputy Corbin Dawes reportedly spotted Tucker with a long firearm “pointed in his general direction,” the report continues. Tucker then retreated to his truck and backed into a field.

Deputies from both departments continued to pursue Tucker on foot and in vehicles, the report says. Officers surrounded Tucker's vehicle and commanded him to exit the truck and show his hands, but Tucker instead began to reportedly accelerate toward the officers who were on foot.

That is the moment when Huntington County Chief Deputy Chris Newton and Wabash County deputies Steve Hicks, Corbin Dawes and Karsten Kersey began firing at Tucker, the report says. He died at the scene.

Hartley reviewed the results of the Indiana State Police investigation along with statements from civilian and police witnesses, interviews with the four officers directly involved in the shooting, photographs, autopsy and toxicology reports, State Police crime lab reports and the use of force policies for the two departments involved, according to his statement released on Monday.

There were no dash or body camera videos depicting the shooting, according to Hartley's statement.

“After a thorough review of this case, it is clear that these officers were justified in using deadly force as it is reasonable to believe that the force was necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to themselves or the other officers in the immediate area,” Hartley said in the statement.

He cited Indiana Code 35-41-3-2(c), which states in part that “a person is justified in using deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person or the commission of a forcible felony.”

The code continues that “no person in this state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting the person or a third person by reasonable means necessary.”