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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE INVESTIGATES DEATH AT CEDAR BLUFFS NATURE PRESERVE



BLOOMINGTON, IN – APRIL 14, 2023 - On April 10 at 6:00 p.m., Deputy Trent Walls was dispatched to contact the complainant by telephone regarding a “Mental Health in Progress Call.” The complainant stated that a friend was using her partner’s phone and texting saying that "people are going to find him at the bottom of Cedar Bluff." The caller stated that the friend was David Howard and that he had mental health issues. The complainant advised she was not aware of Mr. Howard’s location but knew he was not at his residence. She also stated she did not know if she wanted officers to check on Mr. Howard because she was afraid if he discovered the police were called it would escalate the situation. The complainant then stated she did not want Deputies to check on him at that time and wanted to confer with Mr. Howard's partner before having Deputies make contact with him. The complainant stated she would call back if she needed any further assistance or response.



At 7:06 p.m., Deputy Trent Walls and Deputy Shawn Sullivan were dispatched to 8484 South Ketcham Road to a call stating there was a body at the bottom of the cliffs. It was later determined this call was placed by Mr. Howard. When the Deputies arrived on scene they searched the area, along with Monroe Fire personnel, but were unable to locate a body. While searching the area, they eventually located two subjects atop the cliff, near the cliff edge, involved in a physical altercation. It appeared to the Deputies the male, later identified as Mr. Howard, was attempting to throw the female off the cliff. Deputies and fire personnel rushed over and grabbed Mr. Howard, wrestled him to the ground, and handcuffed him for the safety of those on scene. After being restrained, Mr. Howard was placed in a seated position and Deputies were able to deescalate the situation. Mr. Howard remained cooperative and quiet from that time forward. During approximately thirteen (13) minutes of interaction with Mr. Howard and the involved female, Mr. Howard remained unengaged and quiet but made a statement “you were supposed to carry me out of here.” It was determined by Deputy Sullivan and Deputy Walls that Mr. Howard needed to be taken to IU Health Hospital for a mental health evaluation due to his mental health state.


As Deputies were preparing to escort Mr. Howard back to their patrol vehicle for transport, they communicated with Mr. Howard they were going to walk him from the area. At that time Mr. Howard demonstrated no signs of resistance, standing as directed and was fully cooperating with the officers. Mr. Howard cooperatively took two steps when he suddenly rotated to the right and forcefully pulled away from Deputy Sullivan who was holding Mr. Howard in an escort position. As Mr. Howard rotated to a position behind Deputy Sullivan, he began to run towards the edge of the cliff. Deputy Sullivan grabbed Mr. Howard's arm a second time in an attempt to control him, which pulled Deputy Sullivan closer the edge of the cliff. Mr. Howard forcefully pulled away again and jumped off the cliff. The elapsed time from when Mr. Howard rotated from Deputy Sullivan’s control to when he leapt from the cliff’s edge was approximately two (2) seconds. Ambulance and fire personnel were on scene during the incident and provided lifesaving care to Mr. Howard; however, it was unsuccessful. Mr. Howard passed from his injuries.


The Monroe County Coroner was contacted along with Monroe County Sheriff Department Detectives who arrived on scene and assumed the investigation. The initial investigation was completed on April 14, 2023. Toxicology results are pending. An autopsy was scheduled by the Coroner and completed Wednesday, April 13, 2023. The preliminary cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries with the manner of death listed as suicide by the Forensic Pathologist.


A preliminary administrative review of the incident was conducted. The review determined the Deputies actions during this incident were within departmental policies and procedures.


The Monroe County Sheriff's Office extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Howard for their tremendous loss.


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