GREENWOOD, Ind. (WXIN) — Documents obtained through a public records request by Nexstar’s WXIN give some insight into the instant messages exchanged between a number of Greenwood police officers that led to the resignation of three officers and the suspension of two other officers without pay.
The Greenwood Police Department obtained thousands of instant messages between a number of officers in the department between July 14, 2021, and July 14, 2023. The messages included anti-Semitic, racial and homophobic rhetoric, as well as sexually explicit content.
According to previous reports, Tyler Kintzele, Zane Hennig and Jacob Hagist recently resigned from the Greenwood Police Department after they were accused of violating the department’s “Information Technology Use” policy, “Mobile Data Center Use” policy and the “Standards of Conduct” policy.
Two other officers, previously identified by Greenwood police as Samuel Bowen and Elijah Allen, were suspended without pay in relation to the claims that they violated multiple department policies.
In June, Bowen filed a federal lawsuit against Greenwood Police Chief James Ison, as well as the city of Greenwood, according to previous reports. In the complaint, Bowen’s legal team claimed that Ison retaliated against Bowen after he participated in social media discussions criticizing incumbent Mayor Mark Myers as well as the department’s reporting of violent crime prior to the 2023 primary election.
Bowen’s lawsuit said that after his initial complaint was filed on June 25, the city of Greenwood’s legal staff obtained and transferred Bowen’s instant messaging communications to Ison. In response to this, the complaint reads that the department interviewed six officers, including Bowen, about the use of instant messages.
“The names of the other officers were obtained from Bowen’s IMs and their IMs were not separately obtained,” the complaint read. “The focus of the IMs was the use of certain allegedly prejudicial terms during the officers’ communications among one another. On August 7, 2023, Ison recommended Bowen and four other offers be terminated, allegedly based on the language in the IMs.”
According to the documents obtained by Nexstar’s WXIN, there were hundreds of instant messages between Bowen, Hagist, Hennig, Kintzele, Allen and Officer Evan Painter obtained by the department.
“(The messages) contained profanity, sexually explicit content, disrespectful/explicit comments concerning supervisors, and pejorative racial and religious comments,” the documents read.
Within the messages collected by the Greenwood Police Department, there were more than 50 anti-Semitic comments as well as more than 75 homophobic comments and phrases. There were also multiple uses of profanity as well as multiple race-related comments.
Officers spoke to each other in “unprofessional, profanity-laced back-and-forths,” the court documents noted. The officers’ messages included not only vulgar profanity but homophobic slurs and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Officers also made racial slurs and mention of 13 Percenters. The Anti-Defamation League states online the number 13 refers to the purported percentage of the U.S. population that is African American. It called the phrase “a shorthand reference to racist propaganda claims by white supremacists against African Americans to depict them as savage and criminal in nature.”
In an interview with Bowen, which was included in an additional set of documents obtained by Nexstar’s WXIN, Bowen said there were “‘a lot of messages, probably over 5,000′” he wishes he never said. However, he said he did not think the messages impacted how he treats the public during his job.
During the interview, Bowen said he did not specifically remember any chats he was a part of which included the phrase 13 Percenters. A message allegedly sent by Bowen used a racial slur. Bowen reportedly responded by stating “‘that’s not a message I would be proud of sending if I sent that.'”
When asked if he was prejudiced towards African Americans during the interview, Bowen said “absolutely not.” Bowen also denied he treated others differently due to religion, race or sexual orientation and that his shift mates treated others differently. Bowen said he takes “‘great efforts to treat the public the same, no matter what.'”
In an interview with Hagist, Hagist admitted to sending some of these comments, stating “he knew it was wrong.” In response to the homophobic and anti-Semitic comments, Hagist said he was not homophobic or anti-Semitic and just used those words in “friendly ‘banter’ with his shift mates.” Hagist responded in a similar fashion regarding the explicit sexual comments, stating it was, once again, “friendly ‘banter.'”
“He compared it to what kids do on a school bus,” the documents read. “(Hagist) stated that he was not using these terms in what he considered to be a (prejudicial) manner.”
According to previous reports, a disciplinary hearing into Bowen and Allen’s conduct is scheduled at 5 p.m. on Sept 20 in the Greenwood City Building. Ison previously suggested the Greenwood Police Merit Commission should terminate the employment of both Bowen and Allen if the accusations are found to be true.
In a statement sent to Nexstar’s WXIN on Wednesday, Greenwood Mayor Mark W. Myers said the following:
“I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the men and women in law enforcement who work hard every day to keep our community safe. We will always be thankful for their service. Unfortunately, there are a few whose actions do not reflect the core values of the vast majority of their colleagues, our city, or those they serve. Any cases of inappropriate behavior are addressed immediately through proper procedural and legal channels.”Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers
The Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council and the ADL Midwest released the following statement condemning the rhetoric:
“We are disappointed by the language used by members of the Greenwood Police Department. Hateful rhetoric of any kind, be it antisemitic, racist, homophobic, or targeting any marginalized group is simply unacceptable. This is even more concerning when it comes from public servants. We urge the police department to investigate the matter, take appropriate steps, and commit the entire department to meaningful anti-discrimination education.”