A sheriff’s deputy who ran for county sheriff in 2018 was suspended without pay for 14 days in May.
Deputy Chris Rager, 46, resumed his patrol duties May 28 after Sheriff Kyle Dukes suspended him on May 14, according to documents obtained through the Access to Public Records Act.
Regarding the suspension, Rager said, “I have obtained legal counsel in this matter and have been advised to not make a statement at this time.”
Chief Deputy Shane Bucher and Captain Travis Marsh completed the internal investigation that looked into the following issues involving Rager: time off failure to report to work; improperly filed worker’s compensation claim; providing erroneous information pertaining to a crash report to the investigating officer; failure to notify the supervisor(s) of the use of force and not completing the required report within 24 hours; failure to complete report(s) and/or supplemental reports for active cases; establishing a security detail without proper authority and/or permission; and improper overtime form submission.
A letter dated March 21 from Bucher regarding Rager served as an “official discipline action” to the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Merit Board and became part of Rager’s permanent employment file.
It says that on Feb. 27, Rager failed to report to work on his scheduled duty day. The shift was scheduled at its shift minimum due to other deputies had previously approved day off. The letter says Rager did not contact any supervisor for approval.
A letter dated April 19 from Bucher in reference to disciplinary action on Rager stated that on April 12 a decision was made by the command staff at the KCSO to remove Rager from the SWAT team. First Sgt. Don Wiesehan notified Rager he and Bucher needed to meet with him, but Rager said he wouldn’t be able to meet until 2:30 p.m. because he was cutting down trees. When they met with Rager, he became “very emotional about being removed from the team.”
On April 17, Capt. Travis Marsh received a text message from Rager that he had injured his lower back. Rager sent Marsh another text message around 11:30 a.m. April 18 saying that Rager had filed worker’s compensation paperwork for an accident that occurred during a police pursuit on April 11.
On the Indiana Worker’s Compensation First Report of Employee Injury form, Rager documented that he notified his employer on April 14.
Bucher spoke with Marsh, First Sgt. Don Wiesehan, Sgt. Don McCune and acting sergeant at the time of the accident Jim Smith. He asked them if Rager had notified them of the injury from the April 11 accident, and all of them said he had not. They were contacted by text on April 17 by Rager concerning his injured back. Smith said Rager had contacted him about the April 11 accident but Rager said he was not injured.
On April 19, Bucher spoke with Rager, who said he contacted Smith at 10:08 p.m. April 15, telling him he was headed to the hospital for his back due to a kidney stone. Bucher asked him how the injury occurred and Rager said it was not from the accident but when he apprehended a suspect on April 11. Bucher asked Rager about documenting on the worker’s compensation form that he notified his employer on April 14 and Rager “was not able to provide an answer.”
Bucher asked Rager if he had worked at his secondary employment after having the accident. Rager said he had not and that he only worked for them during spring break.
On April 19, Bucher spoke with Smith who said Rager had been working for his secondary employer on CR 250E by cutting down trees.
By Rager documenting that the sheriff’s office was notified of the injury on April 11, that was not accurate, the report states. The report also states the claim of the injury was not submitted to the sheriff within 24 hours.
A copy of the worker’s compensation report lists the date Rager was injured as April 11; date employer notified as April 14; and last work date as April 15. It states the location where the accident occurred was CR 400W, Whitley County, and was the result of a “vehicle accident, fleeing suspect, apprehension.” A doctor’s note excuses Rager from working from April 15-17.
A May 7 report from Marsh in reference to disciplinary action against Rager for vehicle crash and use of force states Rager used his police vehicle April 11 to ram the vehicle of a fleeing suspect, resulting in damage to both vehicles.
“The pursuit was nearly terminated and was finally ended when Deputy Chris Rager physically engaged the fleeing suspect and made an apprehension. There was no immediate indication force had been used nor was there a report number drawn to complete a use of force report. Both for using the vehicle and for the physical contact used to make the apprehension. The use of force report was not completed until April 15,” the report states.
Radio traffic from the incident last indicated Rager was no longer engaged in the pursuit. Rager noted via radio traffic an apprehension had been made. No supervisor was immediately contacted by Rager to advise his police car had been involved in a collision. The report states the narrative of the crash report did not match the patrol video. No mention is made of any injury suffered by Rager during the pursuit. On April 18, Marsh was told Rager had suffered an injury.
Another report from Bucher regarding disciplinary action against Rager states that on March 9 a man contacted the KCSO about a burglary to his residence. Rager responded, typed the report and said it would be sent to the prosecutor’s office. It was never sent. The victim later told the prosecutor’s office that Rager said charges would not be filed because the prosecutor’s investigator, Sam Whitaker, said it was a civil issue. Whitaker denied saying that and claims Rager “lied to the victim.”
On Oct. 26, the KCSO received a call about a mobile home arson case. Rager worked the investigation but didn’t complete the report or interview a suspect, the report states.
A May 7 report states Rager initiated an off-duty security detail with a service organization that generates revenue from alcoholic beverage sales and has a state gambling license. The detail required deputies to provide security for the club. The report states neither Dukes or Bucher were asked permission nor advised of the detail.
Another May 7 report claims Rager submitted an overtime form that didn’t contain any information on what activity produced the overtime.
A third May 7 report states a case report was returned from the prosecutor’s office indicating the victim and a suspect in the case had never been contacted by Rager.
A page titled “Statement of Rights,” signed by Rager on May 18, explains the rights and responsibilities he has during the investigation. They include the right to be informed of the allegations.