ILNews

Deputy’s ‘playful’ groin shot not cause for termination, COA affirms

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A longtime Bartholomew County merit deputy disciplined after he “playfully shot a fellow officer in the groin with non-lethal training ammunition” was not fired for cause, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in affirming an administrative law judge’s determination the deputy was entitled to unemployment benefits.

Robert L. Amos was a merit deputy for nearly 40 years until May 2013, when the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Merit Board found Amos violated six department rules after the incident following a training exercise.

During debriefing, when participants had removed some of their protective gear, Hartsville Town Marshall A.J. Ross said he had not been hit with the non-lethal Simunition plastic bullets during the exercise, according to the record.

Amos laughed and said he had been hit four times during a “live fire” scenario exercise. “He then raised his weapon and playfully shot Marshal Ross, hitting him in his groin protector,” according to the Court of Appeals order in Bartholomew County, Indiana v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and Robert L. Amos, 93A02-1311-EX-986. Ross wasn’t injured, but an instructor immediately took Amos’ weapon and admonished him.

The merit board found Amos’ rules violations constituted cause for termination and immediately discharged him from the department. Initially found ineligible for unemployment benefits, Amos appealed and testified before an administrative law judge that the rules were applied unevenly. He “testified to several instances of other officers playfully shooting fellow employees with (Simunition) without being disciplined,” and the administrative law judge reversed, finding the county didn’t uniformly enforce its rules for “just cause” discharge.
    
The county failed to prove otherwise to the Court of Appeals. The county argued that because Amos was a certified firearms instructor, the proper comparative class is firearms instructors who engaged in Simunition horseplay. “This claim has no merit,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel. “Not one of the six rules Amos violated differentiates between officers who are certified firearms instructors and those who are not.”

The county also lost its arguments that the merit board’s ruling collaterally estopped Amos from claiming he wasn’t discharged for just cause and that the Department of Workforce Development Review Board abused its discretion by denying the merit board transcript as additional evidence.

“The county claimed the transcript called into question Amos’s testimony at the ALJ hearing that other officers had playfully shot fellow employees with (Simunition) without being disciplined. The County, however, did not offer an explanation as to why it did not present the transcript as evidence at the ALJ hearing.”








 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

ADVERTISEMENT