CELINA — A Celina police officer was determined to have shot in defense of himself and two civilians when discharging his weapon in an act that led to the death of Robert Hensley, 39, of St. Marys, who drew his weapon and turned to confront the officer in Celina.
Speaking at a news conference Friday morning, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said the investigation required interviews from 33 people, including five who witnessed the shooting, one of whom was Celina Police Officer Andy Regedanz, the officer who discharged his weapon. The nine-day investigation also delved into Hensley’s movements the morning of his death and involved interviews with his family.
The officer, he said, had a split second to make a decision after the man drew his weapon, and had a duty to defend the two civilians nearby. The sheriff’s office’s investigation concluded that Regedanz’s actions were legally justified.
“Officer Regedanz was in fear for his life, and (for the lives of) the people around him,” Grey said. “As with any other person, Officer Regedanz has the right to defend himself, but he has the duty to protect the other people. He had a duty to respond.”
Hensley was carrying a 22-caliber weapon he legally purchased on March 18 at Big Bucks Firearms, and was the firearm in his possession at the time. His record did not include anything that would disqualify him from purchasing a firearm, Grey said.
Grey said Hensley also reportedly exhibited unusual behavior recently, including hearing voices, and his family had considered asking police to intervene. He did have a criminal background including a charge of disorderly conduct and a DUI from the 1990s and early 2000s, but nothing recent.
On April 10, Hensley woke at 7:30 a.m., picked up his Jeep from where it had been repaired, paid the repair bill and went to Kremer’s Guns, where he perused firearms and used the indoor range.
He tried to leave Kremers, but his car wouldn’t start. He requested help from employees, but they were unable to get the car to start.
From 11:09 a.m. to 11:14 a.m., Hensley was in McDonald’s, without his shirt, “which I think we would all agree in this day and age is unusual behavior,” Grey said.
He was at the Eagles from 11:20 a.m. to 12:22 p.m., where he ate a tenderloin, bologna sandwich, drank a beer and played pool. He had arrived without a shirt, and was asked to put his shirt on, which he did, though he took his shirt off again inside. He attempted to leave without paying. An employee followed him into the parking lot to ask him to pay the bill.
He went back to his vehicle.
At 12:30 p.m., he was seen twirling his gun outside McDonald’s by a person who called 911.
At 12:44 p.m., the person called again to say he was near Market Street near Lablond Street.
At 12:46, Regedanz located Hensley in the parking lot of Lakeshore Auto Sales.
When Regedanz approached, Hensley’s back was to the officer, and they were approximately 12 feet apart. Regedanz had his hand on his gun and he shouted at Hensley to stop and show his hands.
Hensley told the officer he was carrying a weapon, and drew his revolver from a holster clipped into his right pocket, what Grey called a “cross draw.”
Hensley turned to his left, bringing the gun around “aggressively,” Grey said, toward the officer.
The officer raised his gun and fired two shots from his 40-caliber firearm. One shot hit Hensley in the left arm between his elbow and shoulder, the other hit Hensley near his shoulder blade, and travelled through the right front side of his body. The angle of entry of the shots is consistent with Hensley having turned toward the officer.
After being shot, Hensley dropped his weapon and the location of the weapon is consistent with four eyewitness and officer’s statements.
Hensley’s weapon had two spent rounds, and the other four chambers were empty, but it is unknown when two rounds were discharged. It is possible, Grey said, that they were fired at the range. They were not fired during the incident.
“He didn’t have the benefit of knowing everything it took us nine days to learn,” Grey said.
The entire confrontation took less than a minute, with Regedanz radioing for medical attention for Hensley at 12:46 p.m., within the same minute, dispatch logs indicate, that he radioed he had arrived on scene.
“Toxicology reports may help us to understand why Hensley was acting with unusual behavior, but they have no bearing on whether the shooting was legally justified,” Grey said.
The family did indicate the subject’s mental state had been worse the last few weeks. The sheriff’s office’s informed the Celina Police Department and Hensley’s family of their findings, which he said they did not dispute.
“In some ways they’re still in shock,” Grey said, noting they were attempting to deal with Hensley’s unusual behavior. “My heart goes out to the family. I really feel for them to lose a family member in this manner. My heart also goes out to Officer Regedanz. We all take an oath to protect the public. We all know an incident like this could occur during our career, but we all hope and pray it never does. No officer wants to take someone’s life.”
The office’s report is being turned over to the prosecutor for review, and Grey said he will recommend the case go before a grand jury, not because he believes there is any wrongdoing, but because there was a loss of life.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Grey said. “Law enforcement officers work for the public ... the grand jury is made up of citizens. There were two other people in very, very close proximity to Hensley at the time. Nobody had the benefit of knowing that weapon was unloaded until after the incident.”