Clay County Deputy shot while attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Jasonville man

From the Indiana State Police – Putnamville District:

In Clay County, detectives from the Indiana State Police Putnamville Post have been requested by Sheriff Paul Harden of the Clay County Sheriff’s Department to investigate a shooting that took place on December 3rd, 2021, at approximately 10:00 a.m., near State Road 59 at County Road 1250 South, just south of Clay City, Indiana.

At approximately 10:00 a.m., three Clay County Deputies were attempting to locate a male suspect that was wanted on several felony warrants out of Vigo County.  The deputies had received information that the male suspect was possibly residing in a tent located in the woods near State Road 59 and County Road 1250 South. 

Upon the deputies arrival to the area they observed a tent in the woodline.  Assuming the suspect was in the area, they attempted to make contact.  It was at this time that the suspect then began to shoot at the deputies while he was concealed in the tent, ambushing them. One shot struck Deputy Brison Swearingen, a seventeen year veteran, in the lower leg.  Deputy Eric Oberholtzer, an eleven year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, returned fire while deputies retreated, taking cover. This is when the suspect exited the tent and attempted to engage Deputy Oberholtzer, but quickly retreated back into the tent.  

Deputy Swearingen was then moved to a safe area where first aid was administered to his wound.  He was later transported to a hospital in Indianapolis via air ambulance, for medical care.  Deputy Swearingen is expected to make a full recovery.

The Terre Haute Special Response Team and two Indiana State Police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams arrived at the scene with armored vehicles.  Through a collaborative effort, at approximately 2:30 p.m., the suspect peacefully surrendered to officers.

The suspect has been identified as Joe L. Hofmann, age 42, of Jasonville, Indiana.  The original warrants for Hofmann out of Vigo County were for escape, resisting law enforcement, theft (6 counts), possession of syringe, and auto theft.  Hofmann was taken into custody and was transported to the Clay County Jail.       

Clay County Deputy Eric Oberholtzer has been placed on administrative leave.  This is customary in officer-involved shootings. 

The investigation is being conducted by Indiana State Police Putnamville detectives Michael Feartherling, Don Curtuis, Ryan Winters, and Jason Schofstall, with the assistance of First Sergeant Jason Fajt, Sergeant Sam Stearley, and CSI Sergeant Michael Organ of the Putnamville Post.   

This is an active and ongoing Indiana State Police Investigation.  There is no further information to release at this time.  Upon the completion of their investigation, Indiana State Police detectives will submit a full report to Emily Clark, the Clay County Prosecutor, for charges to be filed. 

Assisting agencies:  Clay County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police Central and South SWAT teams, Terre Haute Police Department,  Alcohol Tobacco Firearms (ATF), Clay City Police Department, Brazil Police Department, Clay City-Harrison Volunteer Fire Department, and Starr Ambulance.

All criminal defendants are presumed innocent until, and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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