PENDLETON -- An Indiana State Police trooper was fired Thursday after a second report that he preached religion to a motorist he stopped for a traffic violation.
Senior Trooper Brian Hamilton, a 14-year veteran of the department working at the Pendleton post, was terminated following a second complaint that he proselytized Christianity during a traffic stop.
In January, he reportedly stopped Wendy Pyle at her Fayette County home for a speeding violation. During the stop, he allegedly asked Pyle what church she attended and whether she was saved.
Pyle, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming Hamilton violated her civil rights. The Indiana State Police were named in Pyle's lawsuit against Hamilton.
Hamilton's action was in direct violation of an August 2014 counseling statement where Hamilton was told in writing: “During the course of his official duties, S/Trp. Hamilton will not question others regarding their religious beliefs nor provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements,” the state police said in a statement.
The earlier case involved Hamilton stopping a woman in Ripley County in 2014. He reportedly gave Ellen Bogan a pamphlet from First Baptist Church in Cambridge City and also advertised a radio broadcast, "Policing for Jesus Ministries."
The prior allegation also resulted in a lawsuit that named the Indiana State Police as a defendant. The case was settled in April 2015.
In the recent case, Hamilton, 40, of Connersville, was on duty, wearing a uniform and driving a marked car. Hamilton also invited Pyle to his church, the lawsuit claims.
Her lawsuit states, "In order to hopefully end these inquiries, Mrs. Pyle indicated that she did attend a church and that she was saved."
Pyle filed a complaint with state police on Jan. 14. An internal investigation led to formal department charges on March 9, according to State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.
A hearing for Hamilton was conducted Thursday, and Hamilton was fired.
He was given 15 days to file an appeal.
“While all of us – citizen and police officer – enjoy the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, there are appropriate and proper restrictions placed on agents of the state related to their actions while engaged in their official duties," Carter said.
“While I respect Mr. Hamilton’s religious views, I am also charged to respect every citizen’s rights, and the best way forward for the citizens of Indiana, and for Mr. Hamilton, was to end his employment as a state police officer,” Carter said. “Making the decision to end a person’s career is not a decision I make without considerable thought. I truly wish Brian the best in his future and the ability to follow his heart.”
Capt. David Bursten, who is Chief Public Information Officer for the state police, said, “It needs to be clearly understood that the state police internal investigation and the public announcement of the ICLU lawsuit against Mr. Hamilton are independent and separate issues.”
He added that the "termination of Hamilton’s employment with the state police was the result of a thorough internal investigation and would have occurred regardless of any legal action initiated by the ICLU against Mr. Hamilton.”
Hamilton was employed with the state police from Dec. 9, 2001, to April 7.
Hamilton was on administrative duty assignment at the Pendleton Post from January 15, 2016, until his termination of employment Thursday.
State police also released previous disciplinary action taken against Hamilton.
In 2012, Hamilton was suspended for 15 days after he was called to investigate a rape at Connersville Hospital. Hamilton responded that he was off-duty; however, he had not yet marked off-duty from work at the time.