Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett is recommending that a 38-year law enforcement officer be fired.
Deputy Robbie Amos, 59, has been placed on administrative leave without pay until an issue involving a plastic, simulation bullet that struck Hartsville Town Marshall A.J. Ross is resolved by the Sheriff’s Merit Board.
In an official notification sent to Amos, Gorbett cited 16 departmental violations he claims were committed by the veteran law officer during the past 20 years.
But Amos said most of those violations were written up by Gorbett himself prior to being elected sheriff in 2006. Amos contends many of the written complaints grossly exaggerated the actual incidents and reflect a personal dislike of Amos by Gorbett.
The Feb. 18 incident cited by the sheriff took place immediately after an active-shooter training exercise, where Amos and other officers portrayed perpetrators. During a debriefing, Ross made a comment that he had finished the exercise without being shot, according to Gorbett’s charges.
Using a simulated weapon, Amos — a certified firearms instructor — fired a low-velocity, lightweight plastic projectile at Ross that struck him in the thigh and said something like ‘now you have,’ according to Gorbett’s charges.
But Amos said Thursday that the shot that hit Ross last month went off by accident.
“I only got one shot off during the exercise because my gun jammed,” Amos said. “I thought all the shells were out of it as I tried to un-jam it. They weren’t.”
Amos, who said he had been shot three times in the hand with the same type of projectile during the training exercise, said Ross assured him he was not injured and had no intention of filing a complaint. He said Gorbett’s charges were based on Amos’ own report of the incident.
While Amos did not say whether he will fight the charges, he said he is preparing to defend himself and his record when the Merit Board takes up the issue at a yet-to-be-determined date.
“I’m not the Golden Boy,” Amos said. “Things happen, and I’ve made mistakes like everybody else. But I’ve tried to be Mr. Nice Guy and to do my work well. I love this job. I live this job.”
Amos said he believes Gorbett has been attempting to push him out of the department for several years and has long been compiling a list that he could use for his eventual termination.
He also said he had been subjected to negative treatment by his employer that is not applied equally to all members of the department.
After injuring his knee at a shooting range in 2010, Amos said he underwent three operations on his leg due to complications and infections. However, he said Gorbett’s administration denied workers’ compensation, a shift in duties or a part-time option to keep earning an income.
“I went almost a year without a paycheck,” Amos said.
He also claims that after he returned to work, Gorbett’s administration denied him overtime hours available to other deputies, as well as failing to provide flexibility in hours for both physical rehabilitation and part-time work outside the department.
“This is absolutely nerve-wracking, and we’re not sleeping well at night. We’re worried about keeping our house and paying the bills,” said Hallie Amos, the deputy’s wife.
As of Thursday afternoon, Amos had not received official notification of Gorbett’s charges.
The sheriff said earlier Thursday that he would not be able to comment on the case beyond what was filed in the termination charges.
A public hearing will be set regarding the case against Amos no earlier than March 21, in order to give both sides adequate time to prepare their cases, Gorbett said.
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