By DEBORAH HIGHLAND The Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org/783-3243 |
Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton said Wednesday night he will continue working the job he was elected to do, just hours after he and four other county law enforcement officers were indicted on federal civil rights violations accusing them of beating a handcuffed man and attempting to conceal the incident.
A federal grand jury in Bowling Green on Wednesday indicted Eaton on two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, one count of witness tampering, one count of falsification of a document and one count of giving a false statement to federal investigators.
Also listed on the indictment as co-defendants in the case are sheriff’s deputies Aaron Adam Bennett, Danny “Bobby” McCown, Joseph Adam Gene Minor and Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force Detective Eric Duane Guffey, who is also employed by the sheriff’s office.
The charges are the result of a federal investigation into the law enforcement officers’ actions during an arrest outside a Glasgow church in February 2010.
Bennett, McCown, Minor and Guffey were all indicted on one count each of deprivation of rights under color of law. Bennett, McCown and Minor were also indicted on one count of providing a false statement to federal investigators. Guffey was indicted on two counts of providing a false statement to federal investigators.
Eaton told the Daily News that all of his co-defendants will continue to hold their positions as well, and he expressed support for their job performance.
The men are accused of assaulting and of aiding and abetting one another in assaulting someone identified in the indictment only as “B.R.S.” while B.R.S.’ hands were cuffed behind his back on or about Feb. 24, 2010, at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow. Eaton is additionally accused of “willfully” failing to prevent his deputies from assaulting B.R.S.
Barren County Detention Center records show that the only person brought to the jail that day with the initials B.R.S. was Billy Randall Stinnett, 30, who was accused of leading officers from multiple law enforcement agencies on an afternoon chase through two counties. The pursuit ultimately ended on Cherry Street near Calvary Baptist Church, Barren County Jailer Matt Mutter said, quoting arrest records maintained at the jail.
The federal indictment also accuses Eaton of directing someone identified in the indictment as “S.R.” to write a report falsely stating that S.R. saw a knife on the ground in the area where “Eaton and his deputies had physically confronted B.R.S.” Federal investigators also accuse Eaton of making false entries in an undated Barren County Sheriff’s Office report regarding his actions and those of his deputies in relation to the use of physical force against B.R.S. on Feb. 24, 2010, with the intent to obstruct an investigation.
Eaton told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that neither he nor anyone else hit B.R.S. after he was handcuffed, according to the indictment.
Eaton declined to comment on the charges against him, but said that he plans to continue working. “I’m out working like I always do, like I got elected do, and I’m going to continue to do that,” Eaton said. “I’ve got a job to do and a family to feed.”
Bennett, McCown, Minor and Guffey are still employed by the sheriff’s office.
“They are going to continue to be employed, never received a complaint on them prior to this and not since,” Eaton said. “They are upstanding citizens, and I’m proud to work with them. I wouldn’t have hired them if I didn’t believe in them. They’ve got families to feed and jobs to do, and they do their jobs well.”
Eaton was re-elected to his latest term of office in November 2010 for a four-year term that began Jan. 1, 2011.
Bennett is accused of telling the FBI that neither he nor anyone else hit B.R.S. after he was handcuffed, according to the indictment. McCown told the FBI that he was not present at the Calvary Baptist Church on Feb. 24, 2010, and that he was instead at “E.B. Terry High School,” according to the indictment.
Although the indictment refers to E.B. Terry as a high school, the building – which is in the 300 block of Columbia Avenue with Calvary Baptist Church – is actually a former elementary school.
Minor and Guffey are accused of telling the FBI that neither they nor anyone else hit B.R.S. after he was handcuffed. Guffey is also accused of telling the FBI that he did not see any blood at the scene where B.R.S. was arrested, according to the indictment.
U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in an email that the court will issue summons to each of the men to report to court. She did not provide a court date.
Stinnett, the man arrested on the date referred to in the indictment, was charged Feb. 24, 2010, with driving under the influence, second-degree fleeing or evading on foot, speeding in a restricted zone, reckless driving, manufacturing methamphetamine, knowingly possessing anhydrous ammonia with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, first-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia (second offense), two counts of criminal mischief, two counts of first-degree fleeing or evading, 13 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, unlawful possession of a meth precursor, two counts of second-degree assault against a police officer, one count of third-degree assault against a police officer, two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, five counts of disregarding a stop sign and one count of resisting arrest, Mutter said, citing jail records.