BROWNSTOWN, Indiana — On the morning of April 3, 2019 Kathryn Branaman took her daughter to school in Brownstown, and then drove away in her pick-up truck. Branaman reached behind the truck seats and felt and then saw Barry Rucker who was hiding in the back of the truck. Branaman previously had been in a relationship with Rucker, but the relationship ended in late 2018 after Rucker had threatened Branaman with a machete. Rucker pulled out a handgun, pointed it at Branaman, and told her to drive into the country. Branaman instead drove to the Brownstown Police Department and ran inside to get help.
The Brownstown Police Department is a small department, and the only two officers on duty were assisting with traffic at the local schools.
Rucker pursued Branaman into the Brownstown Police Department, drug her outside, and said to Branaman, “I’m gonna kill you [expletive]. You better get out. I’ll shoot you right here.”
A citizen driving by noticed the struggle, called 911, and reported the man had a gun. Chief Hanner and Assistant Chief Kelly arrived and confronted Rucker. Chief Hanner’s body camera captured significant portions of the encounter. The officers ordered Rucker away from Branaman and to show his hands, but Rucker did not cooperate. The officers attempted to use “less lethal” measures by their use of Tasers on Rucker, but the Tasers did not completely incapacitate Rucker. After Rucker fell to the ground, he pointed a handgun at Chief Hanner. The handgun is visible in Rucker’s hands on Chief Hanner’s body camera video. The officers told Rucker repeatedly to drop his weapon, but Rucker did not comply and remained a deadly force threat to the officers. The firearm that Rucker was armed with was a handgun which by design was capable of firing shotgun shells, and was in fact loaded with shotgun shells.
Chief Hanner and Assistant Chief Kelly shot Rucker. Law enforcement officers with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department responded and rendered emergency medical aid to Rucker. The Jackson County Ambulance Service transported Rucker to Schneck Medical Center, where Rucker was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed that Rucker died of multiple gunshot wounds. The autopsy also revealed that Rucker’s blood contained Methamphetamine and Fentanyl.
Brownstown Police Department Chief Tom Hanner and Assistant Chief Joe Kelly were faced with an actual deadly force threat on April 3, 2019. Pursuant to Indiana law the officers were justified in using deadly force to protect themselves and citizens in the area from that threat and there is no criminal liability on the part of the officers. Chief Hanner and Assistance Chief Kelly and the citizen who called 911 most likely saved Kathryn Branaman’s life.