By Traci Moyer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — ANDERSON — A veteran Anderson police officer has been disciplined in connection to a standoff where SWAT team members scuffled with one another.
The disciplinary action against Officer Joseph Garrett followed an internal investigation by the city's police department into a standoff at the apartment of Kent Hancher on April 2. Garrett has served on the department for 29 years.
The disciplinary action was confirmed Wednesday by police officials to The Herald Bulletin.
Details surrounding the internal investigation and subsequent punishment were not disclosed because the matter is a personnel issue, said Detective Joel Sandefur, a public information officer at the Anderson Police Department.
Garrett will have 48 hours to appeal action taken against him, Sandefur said. If Garrett chooses to appeal the decision by the police department, the matter will go before the city's Board of Public Safety and become public information.
On Tuesday, Police Chief Larry Crenshaw said there was an internal investigation regarding a 90-minute police standoff with Hancher.
Witnesses say the incident began when Hancher, 56, discharged a shotgun into the air from his front doorway in the 300 block of West Sixth Street. When officers arrived, he allegedly pointed the firearm at them.
Hancher specifically requested Garrett’s presence during the standoff. Garrett arrived and helped Hancher surrender. A scuffle then ensued between the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team members and Garrett, according to witnesses who spoke to The Herald Bulletin.
Hancher faces felony counts of pointing a firearm at another person, criminal recklessness and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. He is in the Madison County Jail awaiting a jury trial scheduled for June 24.
Bryan Williams, a court-appointed attorney for Hancher, said he filed a notice of defense motion citing insanity on behalf of his client. Williams said he does not believe the internal investigation or disciplinary action taken against Garrett would be relevant to Hancher’s defense.
“Anytime there is a highly volatile situation we are going to look at the situation,” said Crenshaw. “We want to make sure we are following the best practices. We are looking at the situation to see where we can improve on things.”
Neighbors who witnessed the standoff said it was like something they had only seen in the movies.
Katherine Harvey, who lives next door to Hancher, said she was about a block away from Hancher’s front porch when the police cars arrived and SWAT members swarmed the scene.
“I knew something was wrong when I saw the officer throw down his jacket in apparent disgust,” Harvey said.
Karen Garland, another neighbor, watched the standoff from a bedroom window. She said Garrett was called and walked up to the building at Hancher’s request.
According to the witnesses, Garrett was wearing street clothing and was able to approach Hancher in the doorway of his apartment.
Hancher asked for Garrett
In a jail room interview Wednesday with The Herald Bulletin, Hancher said he asked for Garrett because the two men had gone to school together since the second grade.
“That day I asked for him because I know Joe wouldn’t harm me,” Hancher said.
Hancher, who said he suffers from mental illness after serving in the military, has a prior criminal record.
Wednesday, he said the two men were childhood friends and Garrett had also served in the military. He said he knew he could trust a fellow brother-in-arms.
“Joe actually saved my life,” Hancher said. “He asked me to come outside and talk to him on the porch. That’s when I set the gun down, if I remember that right, and walked out to the porch and the last thing I know, he grabbed me or hugged me or hugged me or something and I got tackled by a SWAT team or somebody tackled me.”
Witnesses said the officers scuffled on the front porch.
“At a certain point, (Hancher) was standing there in between them as all of it was happening and didn’t know what to do. They ended up cuffing him, but Joe was furious,” Garland said.
“There were legs and fists going at it,” she said. “At that one point – no one was in control. They were stepping on each other’s toes, literally.”
Hancher said his foot was “stomped” on, his left thumb was “about tore off” his left hand and his right foot was still "messed up" from the porch scuffle.
“But I ain’t going to complain about it,” he said.
When asked if the officers were fighting, Hancher said he was unsure of some of the details, but he said he knows what happened to his friend.
“As far as I know Joe got pushed clear off the porch and it is about a 2-foot drop from the porch to the ground,” he said. “My lawyer told me Joe is in big trouble with the city police department cause of his actions.
“Said something about he didn’t have no bullet-proof vest on, wasn’t carrying no firearm – nothing.”
Crenshaw said the situation at the Hancher scene was rapidly evolving and stressful.
“I was there, I know what happened,” Crenshaw said. “We were in close quarters, it was raining, we couldn’t hear him, there was a lot of things going on there and it’s not always so easy. I’m not saying what they saw is wrong, but it might not be accurate. In the end, we all went home safe.”
Garrett's actions, however, were appreciated by Hancher.
“He just walked up and said he was going to take care of me,” Hancher said. “Most guys wouldn’t do that. Joe really saved my life.”
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What's next Kent Hancher, 56, of Anderson faces felony counts of pointing a firearm at another person, criminal recklessness and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. He is in the Madison County Jail awaiting a jury trial scheduled for June 24.