Lawsuit blames Clermont County deputies for contributing to suicide

Jack Huelsman was mentally ill, family claims
Lawsuit blames Clermont County deputies for contributing to suicide
Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-10 19:59:30-04

BATAVIA, Ohio – A lawsuit accuses two Clermont County deputies of contributing to the suicide of a man they were called to help.

The family of Jack Huelsman has filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit alleging that deputies  Eric Gregory and Meredith Walsh “unreasonably endangered” Huelsman’s life before he shot himself in his Williamsburg home on Sept. 19, 2015.

The deputies responded after Huelsman’s daughter called 911 and reported that he was experiencing a mental health emergency, according to the lawsuit. When the deputies arrived, Huelsman’s wife Cheryl informed them that he was suicidal and had access to firearms. Gregory heard Huelsman threaten suicide, the suit says.

Gregory made Huelsman’s wife leave the house, leaving Huelsman alone inside. Gregory also refused  to allow an EMS team to treat him, according to the suit. Within minutes, Huelsman shot himself, the suit says.

“Jack’s death is truly heartwrenching and was entirely preventable,” said attorney Jennifer Branch, who filed the suit. “There is no reason that Mr. Huelsman should have been left alone. If the deputies were going to force his wife out of their home and prevent her from protecting him, then the deputies had a duty to protect him until the psychiatric mobile crisis unit arrived. They failed miserably by leaving a suicidal Mr. Huelsman alone in the home with guns while one of the officers left and the other remained in his car on his cell phone.”

Gregory called for a mobile crisis team, which was estimated to take 20-25 minutes to arrive. He then sat in his cruiser, according to the lawsuit. Walsh left the scene.

The lawsuit says it was “clearly foreseeable, a suicidal and unsupervised Mr. Huelsman, who was in the throes of a mental health crisis, without his wife to protect him from accessing his firearms, committed suicide.”

Sheriff Robert Leahy and the county commissioners are also named as defendants in the suit. WCPO left messages for them Tuesday and Leahy called back. Leahy, who was not sheriff  when Huelsman died, said he couldn’t comment officially, but he added, “I would like to say I’m so sorry for the family’s loss. Anytime you lose a family member, I know it’s hard.”

Leahy confirmed that Gregory and Walsh are still deputies in Clermont County.

The lawsuit alleges that Gregory and Walsh were not properly trained or supervised on handling encounters with mentally ill, suicidal citizens.

Huelsman, 64, suffered from terminal cancer for many years in addition to bi-polar disorder and depression, according to the suit.

After the Huelsmans’ daughter called 911, the dispatcher reported to the deputies that Huelsman was violent and had access to weapons, according to the suit.

The suit also claims:

When Gregory arrived at the home,  Cheryl Huelsman,  a registered nurse, let the deputy inside and told him her husband was having a psychiatric emergency. She said her husband was paranoid and was accusing her of causing his phone, laptop, and tablet not to work properly.   Huelsman told the Gregory his electronics were not working and also complained to Gregory that his wife took his guns and hid his car keys so he could not drive.

Gregory asked Cheryl Huelsman to step outside and talk with him. She told Gregory she did not want to leave her husband inside alone because she believed he was suicidal. She said he needed to go to the hospital.

Gregory heard Huelsman yell to his wife on the porch that if he killed himself she couldn’t afford to stay in the house. The deputy ordered Huelsman to remain in the house and  ordered Cheryl Huelsman to stay outside.  

 An EMS unit arrived at approximately 12:18 p.m. but Gregory prevented the rescue squad from treating Huelsman and told them to leave.

When Walsh arrived at approximately 12:38 p.m.,  Cheryl Huelsman was outside with Gregory and explained to both of them that she feared her husband would kill himself if she wasn’t allowed to go back in. But the deputies forced her to remain outside with them.

At his corporal’s request, Gregory contacted the mobile Crisis Intervention Team at 12:47 p.m. and requested them to respond.

Walsh left the scene and Gregory went to his car to use his phone. While waiting for the crisis team, Gregory heard a loud noise, went inside the home and found Huelsman dead.

READ the lawsuit here or below: