Two Johnson County sheriff’s deputies were protecting themselves when they killed a man who shot at them last summer, the county prosecutor has decided.
Derek J. Hobson of Greenwood ran from the officers on July 13, 2013, through a cemetery east of Franklin. Hobson fired one shot at the deputies and then his gun jammed, preventing him from firing anymore rounds.
Deputies Jarrod Wiser and Dan Combs fired 11 times at Hobson near Second Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Two bullets hit Hobson in the back, and he died that day.
The deputies were justified in shooting Hobson under Indiana law, which states that people can use deadly force to protect themselves or someone else, Prosecutor Brad Cooper ruled this week. Cooper made the decision a year after the shooting and after Indiana State Police concluded its investigation of the case.
“He drew first and started firing at police officers, and that puts them well within their rights to shoot back. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more clear-cut case of a justified use of force by law enforcement,” Cooper said.
The state police found that Hobson, 25, had a 9mm handgun, which he’d gotten illegally. The gun jammed, so Hobson wasn’t able to fire again after shooting once at the deputies.
Having the gun jam may have saved the officers’ lives, since Hobson had six rounds remaining in the weapon and had the advantage of firing first while the officers had Tasers drawn, Cooper said.
Lab tests showed Hobson had chemicals in his body including methamphetamine, amphetamines, marijuana and diphenhydramine, which is found in cold and allergy medications.
That afternoon in July 2013, police had been called to an area near the Shelby County line by residents who saw a man wearing dark-colored pants, a knit hat, long-sleeved shirt and gloves walking along County Road 800E.
When sheriff’s deputies came to the area, they found Hobson, 25, kneeling as if in prayer in front of a headstone in the cemetery, according to the state police report. State police investigators later determined Hobson had no relationship to the person buried in the cemetery.
When questioned, Hobson initially gave officers fake names, but one officer spotted his identification card in his wallet and Hobson said he had warrants out for his arrest. He then ran away from the deputies when they attempted to arrest him. The officers
attempted to stop him using their Tasers but didn’t hit him.
When Hobson took off running and aimed a handgun at Wiser, both officers fired at him.
Witnesses across the street told police they saw Hobson turn around and fire once at the deputies. Wiser and Combs shot multiple rounds at Hobson in response.
Sheriff Doug Cox had Wiser and Combs placed on desk duty while the police shooting was under investigation but returned them to their normal duties within weeks. Cooper gave his approval Aug. 7 for the deputies to return to their jobs, saying police car dash camera footage showed clearly that Hobson pulled a gun first.
Hobson previously was arrested on charges of theft, burglary, residential burglary, operating while intoxicated, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and a probation violation.