Two Pike County Sheriff's Deputies Off The Job After Alcohol-Fueled Confrontation With Teen
The former Pike County Sheriff's Deputies say they were defending themselves against a violent, out of control teenager. But the boy's family says the deputies were drunk and they were the ones who attacked him.
The 16-year-old is the stepson of one of the former deputies.
An independent investigation found all three of the people involved could have faced criminal charges. Investigation photos show the scene outside the home of former Pike County Deputy Sheriff Phil Hopper: bags full of empty beer cans, and a knife Hopper says he and a co-worker were using to shot-gun beers. The pictures also show the result of the violence that broke out the night of July 6th: Hopper with a black eye, and his 16-year-old stepson with a busted lip, and blood on his face.
The other deputy involved was Paul Anthony Wheeler.
What happened that night, depends on who's telling the story.
When asked by investigators whether he was intoxicated, Hopper replied: “Not heavily. I was slightly buzzed." But his wife, the mother of the 16-year-old, said, “They weren't just intoxicated. They were highly, highly intoxicated."
Hopper and Wheeler say Wheeler was teasing the teen and his friend. Four others describe his jokes as antagonistic and threatening.
Also in dispute: what happened when Hopper and his wife told the 16-year-old to go inside.
"Phil stood up and was like, ‘Get in the house’,” Deputy Wheeler told investigators. “And he started walking around toward Phil and when he walked past Phil he just turned around and jacked him."
"He's like '(expletive) you' and punched Phil right in the face," said Wheeler’s fiancée.
The 16-year-old, his mother, and his friend tell a very different story.
The boy says, "I started to walk away, when Phil yelled 'march'. I told them they were acting like jerks then he grabbed me by the head and tried to put me on the ground."
His friend told investigators, "Phil grabbed (the teen) by the face and pulled him to the ground and then Wheeler and Phil were on top of him and Wheeler was holding him down kneeing (the teen) and Phil hitting (the teen)."
That account was backed up by Phil Hopper's wife:
"We just kept screaming, ‘Get off of him! Get off of him!’ and Wheeler was kicking him in the side. He had his knee down in him. Phil was punching him."
Hopper, Wheeler, and Wheeler's fiancee say the deputies were only trying to restrain, not assault, the teen, who they say is far from a child.
"I know that he's 16, but he's got the body of a man,” Hopper told investigators. “He's strong as an ox, man. Very strong."
Hopper and Wheeler's supervisors didn't find out until 12 hours later, when Wheeler reported the incident.
"I got two Deputy Sheriffs that they're telling us beat the crap out of a kid, and you guys are saying that he sucker-punched you, but no one called. That puts us in a bad way," said one of their supervisors.
An independent investigation by the Ross County Sheriff's Office found Deputy Hopper and his step-son could both be charged with Domestic Violence and Disorderly Conduct, and Deputy Wheeler could be charged with Assault, Menacing, and Disorderly Conduct.
After consulting the boy's mother, Pike County Sheriff Richard Henderson declined to pursue charges but accepted the resignation of both deputies.
Henderson calls both good deputies.
10TV looked at their personnel files, and both had clean professional records.
The Sheriff said this incident was something he couldn't overlook. He says as law enforcers, they are held to a higher standard, and in this matter, that standard was not met.