Recently a local law enforcement officer was given a ten day suspension for violently kicking a dog. The suspension may have been the result of public outcry created by the owner of the dog releasing doorbell camera footage of the incident on social media. The christian scriptures say, “remember all those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” In God’s sight justice denied to a thief and an addict, is the same as justice denied to the innocent. Justice has been denied to a local man named Richard Patterson and his family, and several local institutions have gone to great lengths to prevent the public from knowing about it. If the mistreatment of a dog results in a ten day suspension, then what should the discipline be for negligence leading to the death of a human being?
On June 13th, 2021 Richard Patterson escaped custody through the back window of a Vigo County Sheriff’s department squad car and fled on foot through a nearby wood line. Three days later his mother filed a missing persons report with the Sheriff’s department, and according to an Indiana State Police department investigation, Deputy Khristopher Morris, who took the report, was ordered by Detective First Sergeant Clay White not to file it. The reason given was that the individual was not missing but had escaped custody, despite the fact that Patterson was still missing from the escape. According to the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department procedures and state law enforcement guidelines included in the ISP investigation, a Silver Alert should have been issued for Richard Patterson but never was. And these are not the only instances of broken protocols related to Richard’s arrest and escape.
It all started with a 911 call reporting a dark colored vehicle parked on the side of the road and the driver appearing to be incapacitated. When Vigo County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Brent Hall and Deputy Zach Belfi responded to the call, they woke the driver and quickly discovered that the vehicle had been stolen, and that there was stolen property inside. Some of the stolen items included the owners identification and Lieutenant Hall went to their residence to return the items. Deputy Belfi arrested, searched, and questioned the driver who verbally identified himself as Richard Patterson. Lieutenant Hall then requested Deputy Belfi bring Mr. Patterson to the victim’s residence and upon arrival Deputy Belfi rolled down the back window so that the victims could question him about the possible location of other stolen items that had not been retrieved. Deputy Belfi and the victims then walked away leaving the window down, despite Deputy Belfi previously reporting that he felt the suspect had a strong desire to escape.
Once Deputy Belfi and Lieutenant Hall realized Patterson had escaped they called for a Terre Haute Police Department K-9 unit to assist in the search. From the ISP report it is not clear when THPD officer Nick Ciolli arrived on the scene with his K-9 “Vader,” but it would be reasonable to assume that because Belfi and Hall had originally responded to the 911 call at 12:06 am, and the events leading up to Ciolli’s arrival probably took an hour to an hour and a half, Ciolli would have to have arrived somewhere between 1:00 and 1:30 am. Which is particularly concerning considering the fact that the ISP report indicates that officer Ciolli left the scene at 2:27 am, meaning they only searched for Richard Patterson for an hour to an hour and a half. They did report, however, searching around the pond where Richard’s body was later found.
A request for body camera footage related to the search was made to the city legal department but was denied because the footage contained THPD K-9 tactics which could be considered “dangerous” to the public, despite most of the K-9 tactics used being publicly available in the report filed by the Indiana State Police Department. A complaint was filed with the Indiana Public Access Counselor due to the unreasonable nature of the denial. After the complaint was filed, a request for comment was made to THPD Chief Shawn Keen and Vigo County Sheriff John Plasse, and no response was received. A request was made for Deputy Belfi’s disciplinary file which was approved and revealed no discipline had been taken for the negligence resulting in Patterson’s escape and his subsequent death.
I have tried to communicate the facts of this case as clearly as possible without my personal bias. The vast majority of this information came straight from the Indiana State Police department incident report which can be publicly requested from the ISP or let me know and I will send you my copy. I believe that if body camera footage of the search was made available there would have been a stronger public outcry for justice in this case. If you’re looking for something you can do to make a change in this case, or in greater public access to body camera footage, please make a request to the mayor and the city legal department asking them to release the body camera footage of the search for Richard.
2 thoughts on “Justice for Richard Patterson”
Please post this on Twitter and everywhere ya can. My nephew did not deserve this. He might have had his troubles with drugs but he was such a great man to his family and his friends. Loved kids and such a kind soul. He was always there to help out anyone and would give the shirt off his back in 20 degree weather just to make sure you were warm. He is my nephew and we ALL miss him so much!
Thank you for this article Mr. Larimer. Until something like this touches your family or someone you know and love, one does not realize how horrific this was for Richard’s family. I have the utmost respect for police and professionals who serve our community. Richard once in the custody of the officers deserved the same care and concern as anyone. He was under the influence it was very apparent according to the police report. Why then was he not transported to a facility to ensure his safety? The stolen items were evidence. The owners could have picked them up the next day. Not to mention the right to remain silent. Since when is it allowed for the victim to speak to the alleged perpetrator who was highly intoxicated. I realize that officers deal with this kind of thing everyday. But that does not give one license to not do their job and ensure the safety of all. Instead of Richard facing his actions and most probable facing time. Where he would have had the opportunity to change his direction. High and frightened he allegedly crawled out an open window handcuffed behind his back. To drown less than 100 yards from where the officers stood. And a canine unit did not find a scent a trail leading less than 100 yards to the pond where he died? And his body laid for 6 days? He was someone’s child. I would wish this end on no one. And I find it very difficult to believe that this is typical protocol in dealing with an escaped alleged criminal. I understand the frustration that police must have dealing with reoeat offenders or drug users. But your job is to serve and protect……..every citizen, even the alleged criminals. A dog gets kicked and the outcry was deafening. A human being died and where is the outcry? No disciplinary actions. No respect for his family. In fact his mother was treated with no compassion at all at the sheriff’s office. She is one of the people that civil officers are supposed to serve. Instead she was treated like the enemy. Before this happened I would have never thought this would happen in our community by our officers. Sadly it has jaded my opinion. Richard could be any of our children. His end could be any of our worst nightmares. I pray that justice be found for Richard’s mother and his family. And that this never happens to someone else’s child.