On February 20, 2017, an Indiana Conservation Officer, Michael Powell, responded to a call about a suspicious person on SR 56 outside of Rising Sun, Indiana (west of Cincinnati, OH, and northeast of Louisville, KY ). At some point, after Officer Powell approached Justin Holland the interaction became violent and a fight ensued with Holland quickly overwhelming the officer.
Eventually, Officer Powell was down on all fours with Holland on top of him reaching for his duty weapon. That is when Kystie Jaehnen, who lives nearby, jumped into action using her personally owned firearm to shoot Holland once in the torso. After being shot Holland fell to the ground saving the officer from further beating. Holland was transported to Dearborn County Hospital where he died from his wound. Officer Powell also was transported to the hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries.
In the ensuing investigation, it was revealed that Holland had a substance abuse problem and had methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, marijuana, dextromethorphan, and methadone in his system at the time of the encounter with officer Powell.
From a criminal standpoint, Jaehnen was cleared of all criminal charges related to the shooting back in May 2017 and was recognized for her heroic efforts to save Officer Powell. Although cleared of criminal charges the family of Holland has now filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Jaehnen, Officer Powell, and the Indiana DNR.
You read that correctly that Jaehnen saved a law enforcement officer from serious bodily injury and now is being forced to spend money defending her actions in civil court. No matter what, the fact remains that she will need to fight the civil suit and it won’t be cheap. Spending 25k on lawyer fees to get the case dismissed would be cheap. Many civil cases if they drag out can run over 100k to defend.
HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN?
In criminal court the jury must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The result is either yes you are guilty or not. When we take concealed carry classes we focus on this to ensure we know when we can legally use force and if we have a duty to retreat before using force. This keeps us criminally safe but may NOT save us from a civil lawsuit.
In civil lawsuits, you can be sued for just about anything and the results could be 100% responsible all the down to 0%. It’s not as simple as a yes/no answer.
Say a family sues you for 1 million dollars claiming wrongful death and they only find you 10% responsible you are still going to pay 100k on-top of your legal fees. There are some states that grant civil immunity when you are found innocent of criminal charges in self-defense cases but not all states. Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground only apply to the criminal proceeding and not to civil lawsuits.
My suggestion is to do your own personal soul searching and determine at what point are you willing to defend yourself, your family, and others when considering the criminal and civil suits you could be opening yourself up to.