Ohio County, IN – A heroic woman who came to the aid of a police officer under attack has been hit with a lawsuit.
Kystie Jaehnen was hailed as a hero after she saved the life of an Indiana conservation officer who had been overtaken by a drug-fueled assailant. But now she has become the focus of a wrongful death lawsuit, according to an Aurora Police Department (APD) sergeant familiar with the case.
The incident occurred on Feb. 20, 2017, when a citizen contacted Ohio County 911 at 12:19 p.m. to report that a disheveled man had parked his pickup partially into her driveway, and was blocking a highway lane, the Journal Press reported.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officer Michael Powell, who had had just finished his shift at noon, was traveling in his marked patrol unit, and heard the call being dispatched.
He responded to the scene, where he encountered 25-year-old Justin Holland rummaging through items in his truck.
Officer Powell asked Holland to come to the back of the pickup, and noticed that Holland was acting erratically, and appeared to be impaired.
Toxicology results later found that Holland had methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, marijuana, dextromethorphan, and methadone in his system at the time of the encounter.
Due to Holland’s behavior, Officer Powell attempted to handcuff him for officer and public safety, at which point the irate man began to resist.
In the struggle that ensued, Holland began to overtake the officer with his considerable strength and size.
“At some point, the officer began to lose that altercation with that person,” Indiana State Police Sergeant Stephen Wheeles told WLWT.
“Eventually, [Officer] Powell was on all fours as Holland was on top of him,” Dearborn and Ohio County Prosecutor Lynn Deddens told the Journal Press.
Holland then reached for the officer’s duty weapon. Officer Powell later said that he felt Holland applying pressure on his retention holster, the Journal Press reported.
As the situation grew increasingly dire, Jaehnen, a concerned female neighbor, raced to the officer’s aid.
“It was at that time that a female... nearby saw what was taking place, and decided that she needed to take action to come to the assistance of that officer,” Sgt. Wheeles told WLWT.
"The female fired one shot from a personally owned firearm at Holland, striking him in the torso," police said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Jaehnen and her mother, who had originally placed the 911 call, then began performing CPR on the wounded attacker, APD Sergeant William Halbig told Blue Lives Matter.
Holland was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, WLWT reported.
Officer Powell was also transported for treatment of undisclosed, non-life threatening injuries.
Following Holland’s death, his family acknowledged that he had been “struggling with demons,” WLWT reported.
Despite the fact that Officer Powell had driven a marked patrol unit to the scene, Holland’s family said they questioned whether or not he realized he was fighting with a law enforcement officer.
Holland was facing charges of fraud of a financial institution, fraud, theft, and forgery at the time of altercation, and had previously been arrested for one count of battery resulting in bodily injury.
The assault charge was ultimately dismissed, WLWT reported.
In May, 2017, Deddens announced that Jaehnen would not face any criminal charges for coming to the assistance of an officer in need, WCPO reported. She further explained that Jaehnen had acted in defense of Officer Powell.
Despite the circumstances of the incident, Holland’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jaehnen, Officer Powell, and the DNR on Feb. 15.
“It is tragic how one person’s irrational and unlawful actions can destroy the peaceful lives of others,” Sgt. Halbig, who is also the President of the Laughery Valley Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), said on a fundraising page he has initiated to help Jaehnen with legal expenses.
“The FOP is an organization that supports solid laws and is essentially all about the fellowship of law enforcement officers, but we also have an obligation to recognize Kystie’s heroic and selfless actions while helping out one of our own,” he told Blue Lives Matter.
Although Officer Powell and the DNR have also been named in the suit, they have access to aid and defense teams that Jaehnen does not.
“Kystie is courageous, and her actions saved a life, and she should be commended, but instead she is being sued,” Sgt. Halbig noted on the fundraising page. “Attorney fees are an expense well beyond Kystie’s income and this will not be a quick process. The legal fees and emotional stress may drain every resource she has.”
He argued that the outcome of Jaehnen’s legal battle signifies “more than the right or wrong of one party suing another.”
“The case is about a person having the basic God-given right and the 2nd Amendment right to defend both yourself and others and without the fear of civil retribution,” Sgt. Halbig concluded.
As of Monday afternoon, the fundraising campaign had received nearly $10,700 in donations. In the event donations exceed the amount needed for Jaehnen’s legal expenses, the balance will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and the Police Benevolent Fund, according to the website.
“She needs some support,” Sgt. Halbig told Blue Lives Matter. “If they win, it will be an absolute shame.”
Even if you cannot donate yourself, please help share this story on social media so we can get this hero some help.