Man sentenced to 14 years


The number of police from various agencies nearly outnumbered the non-law enforcement personnel present Friday at the sentencing hearing for a Seymour man.

Jeremy C. French, 43, sat in Jackson Circuit Court waiting to hear his sentence after earlier this month pleading guilty to a Class B felony charge of attempted aggravated battery in connection with a night that started with drinking and ended with 17 shots being fired at law enforcement June 2, 2014.

“Somebody could have seriously been killed that night, and that’s the nature of the circumstances of that night,” Judge Richard W. Poynter said before handing French a sentence of 14 years in prison with four years suspended.

French’s friends and family described the incident as “uncharacteristic” of a man they said had no history of violence other than an incident with Columbus police Aug. 12, 2012, in which he was taken into custody and then released.

The defense cited his five months of service in the Marines Corps, years of service in the Indiana National Guard and numerous commendations, including Indiana National Guard Commendation Medal, as a testament to his character.

The prosecution highlighted the events of the night in June 2014 and the incident in August 2012, which both involved French drinking while taking medication for anxiety. The prosecutors explained that the first incident should have been an indicator of the effects mixing the two could have.

Police also gave testimony as to how the incident had affected them and their families.

One of them, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Officer Jeff Walters, stated in a letter read by Jackson County Sheriff Mike Carothers that he heard one of the shots whistle past his head, striking a nearby object.

“These officers have to go home to their families, and they have to tell their children what could have happened,” Officer Mike Payne with the Seymour Police Department said, stressing that just because nobody was hurt didn’t mean that no one could have been hurt.

Jackson County Prosecutor AmyMarie Travis said the public expects law enforcement to be willing to risk their life; however, while this is a possibility in police life, “it is not a day in the life of a police officer,” mirroring a comment by Poynter that French had endangered lives for no reason.

Originally, French faced 11 charges, including four Class A felony counts of attempted murder, which would have carried a possible sentence of 20 to 50 years per charge for an incident that began when Jackson County Sheriff’s Department officers responded to a report of a family fight, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The incident began in the early morning hours of June 2, 2014, when police received reports of an intoxicated man threatening to hurt himself. The first call came in at 12:01 a.m. that day.

According to court documents, the arriving officer managed to help French’s wife and other family reach safety after being warned by dispatchers that French possibly had as much of 2,500 rounds of ammunition and body armor and had received military training.

While helping the family members reach safety, officers came under fire from someone in the upstairs bedroom of the house. Walters, who was present along with county Officer Dustin Steward and Seymour Officer Jacob Florine, said one shot was fired over their heads as they moved for cover.

Shots fired that evening hit a 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe driven by a police officer, a 2005 Dodge Ram parked in a driveway across the street and a nearby residence.

Police did not return fire.

Officers present took cover behind cars and waited for the county emergency response team to arrive along with an armored vehicle from the Seymour Police Department.

By the time French had surrendered about an hour after the incident began, more than 30 police officers had arrived on scene.

“You swear an oath (in the armed service) just like in the police, and I let them down,” French said Friday of his actions.

During a search of the residence, police found several weapons, both rifles and shotguns, and ammunition, both fired and unfired. They also found glass windows shot and broken out and what appeared to be bullet holes in the ceiling in the home French and his wife share with their three children.

French told police in an interview that he had taken medication for anxiety, followed by drinking beer and tequila at a graduation party and had not eaten very much.

In his interview, French told police he did not remember much more after that time.

French’s wife explained to police that he had been drinking heavily before she took him home. She said she was aggravated that he was “very drunk,” which was not his typical behavior, in her opinion.

An argument once they got home furthered the issue. That’s when he “just snapped,” she told police. French got his 9mm firearm and said he was “going to kill everyone,” French’s wife said.

The wife and one of French’s children struggled with French, managing to get the firearm away from him.

When French then failed to calm down or succumb to alcohol, the other family members decided they needed to get out of the house and call 911.

French told police he spent some time after that in the closet sobering up and did remember a call and talking to an officer about surrendering.

As part of the plea deal, the prosecution agreed to dismiss the remaining charges, including three other charges of criminal confinement, intimidation and criminal recklessness.

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