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Prosecutor Rules Owensburg Shooting Justified

Last updated on Saturday, August 11, 2012

(OWENSBURG) - Police justifiably returned fire at an Owensburg man who died in an Independence Day morning shoot-out, per the findings of Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw.

"Each officer that fired at Michael Lane was justified under Indiana law in doing so to protect themselves and to prevent Lane from seriously injuring those persons present at the scene as they attempted to effect his arrest," meeting the standard for police use of deadly force under Indiana Code 35-41-3-3, according to Holtsclaw.

Further, Holtsclaw determined police had repeatedly attempted to talk Lane, 25, out of the standoff which also saw two deputy sheriffs wounded, only to be told Lane feared being charged for his crimes and his parole revoked.

The incident sent area law enforcement scrambling to the scene, many leaving positions in Linton's Freedom Festival parade.

Gunfire erupted as police investigated a domestic dispute at Lane's home on State Road 45 South, a quarter mile north of S.R. 58 and near the Crane NSA gates.

Greene County deputies James O'Malley and Brad Deckard were both wounded by shotgun fire during the holiday shoot-out at Lane's rural Owensburg home.

Subsequently, Lane died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, said Greene County Coroner Sherry Wilson.

An autopsy conducted at Terre Haute Regional Hospital by Dr. Roland Kohr subsequently confirmed the wound was not self-inflicted, but rather the result of police returning fire.

The fatal shot which felled Lane, findings suggest, was fired by Greene County Sheriff's Department Det. George Dallaire, the same officer who'd previously spoken to Lane twice by cell phone, seeking his surrender.

By then, Lane had already shot two officers.

In the aftermath of the shootings, Holtsclaw's findings reveal a clearer picture of what happened that fatal morning.

Per the prosecutor, Lane had ingested a large amount of Xanax the evening of July 3.
When he awoke July 4, he began fighting with his girlfriend, and struck her twice in the head and once in the jaw. He also battered his mother, Debbie Lane, leading his sister Megan to call the police around 9:39 a.m.

O'Malley, first to arrive at the scene, encountered Debbie Lane fleeing the residence. He ordered her to keep running to the highway for her own safety, but was instead forced to restrain her to keep her from re-entering the home.

Michael Lane then emerged and shot O'Malley with a shotgun, wounding him in the shoulder and leg.

O'Malley returned fire, calling for back-up. Next to arrive was Indiana State Trooper Eric Nash, who drove his cruiser up the residence's driveway and evacuated the injured deputy to cover, where he tried to tend to O'Malley's wounds.

Soon thereafter, Michael Lane and an unidentified female both exited the home, Lane armed with a long gun and the female nearby. While Lane opened fire on police, Nash was unable to return fire due to the woman's proximity to the shooter.

Eventually, she fled and was not seen again, while Michael Lane returned inside, per the report. Nash repeatedly ordered Lane to surrender, but the shooter refused.

Soon, additional law enforcement began arriving at the scene, including Indiana State Trooper Mike Clephane and Greene County Deputy Sheriff Brad Deckard.

As officers tended to O'Malley's wounds, Lane emerged from the home and fired again, striking Deckard in the shoulder along with the police cruisers the lawmen were using as cover.

Next, Dallaire arrived on the scene and utilized a cell phone provided by Lane's parents to attempt to talk the shooter into surrendering.

"Det. Dallaire found Michael Lane to be in a rage while on the phone," according to Holtsclaw's report, and was unable to calm the shooter down. Lane correctly suspected he'd be charged with attempted murder. Lane also told Dallaire he had three guns inside the home and "was ready to die."

While Dallaire bravely offered to walk down to the house and meet with Lane, should he emerge unarmed, Lane refused. Informed by the detective a state police response team was en route, Lane told Dallaire to "send them in."

Soon thereafter, he emerged from the home to fire at police yet again. Indiana State Trooper Mark Clephane returned fire, forcing him back inside. Soon thereafter, Lane was spotted standing in a window, armed with a long gun.

Dallaire fired once with a rifle, striking Lane in his right arm, a bullet which passed into his chest as a kill shot.

"On four separate and distinct occasions, Michael Lane fired upon law enforcement agents who were responding to a valid complaint of domestic violence," Holtsclaw wrote.
"Had Michael Lane survived, he would have been charged with multiple counts of attempted murder and battery. Michael Lane was given numerous opportunities to surrender peacefully ... yet chose not to do so."

Under Indiana Code 35-41-3-2, Holtsclaw notes, "a person is justified in using deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent seriously bodily injury or death to the person or a third person."

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