MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, OH - A Middleburg Heights police officer who shot and killed an injured deer on the lawn of a church has been disciplined over the incident.
The disciplinary action is not because Officer Joseph Kaetzel shot the deer, which is consistent with department policy. Rather, Middleburg Heights Police Chief John Maddox said the punishment stems from his behavior toward a resident and her 11-year-old daughter.
Kaetzel was called to St. Bartholomew’s Church on Bagley Road on Aug. 8 for a report of a young deer with an injured leg collapsing on the lawn. When he arrived, a mother and daughter were trying to comfort the deer. He ordered them away from the animal and then killed it.
The resident complained, writing a letter to the department that stated Kaetzel’s conduct traumatized her daughter, driving the girl to tears. She described his behavior as “insensitive, arrogant” with “zero compassion," continuing “for this officer to intimidate and frighten an 11-year-old… and seem to ‘enjoy it’ makes me sick.”
“If he'd treated our citizen with respect and fairness the way he should have, I don’t think anything would've come of this incident,” Maddox said.
Maddox said Kaetzel, who has over 30 years of service on the force, was disciplined for failing to identify himself, showed conduct unbecoming of an officer and neglected his duty.
Maddox said Kaetzel had a history of similar attitude issues, and that was also taken under consideration.
Kaetzel did not respond to Fox 8’s request for comment, but in a police report filed subsequent to the complaint, Kaetzel stated that he "does not recall if the female asked for my name as her conversation with me was highly emotional and confrontational. This officer was not yelling at her but was stern with her in getting her to leave."
Maddox said Kaetzel now realizes he could’ve handled the situation better.
“He, I believe, has learned by it, and he's willing to move on from here and accept the consequences for his iniquities,” Maddox said.
The resident told Fox 8 News she is pleased with the city’s handling of her complaint and feels the discipline is appropriate.
Kaetzel was cleared of shooting the deer since the animal was obviously hurt and Middleburg Heights Police Chief John Maddox says it is an officer's discretion to destroy a wild animal in distress. He was also cleared of not turning on his body camera, since he was not gathering evidence or responding to a crime.
The disciplinary action proposed is for 2 days of suspension and anger management.