The following is an open letter provided to all three newspapers in Phillip's County for publication this week.
As promised here is the report about the recent KBI investigation regarding a few present and former members of the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office that I, Sheriff Charles Radabaugh, requested.
Before getting into the meat and potatoes I would like to comment on how we as a community got to this point. Basically, the allegations were based and promoted by gossip, rumors and flat out lies. The motives are confusing other than the usual anti-law enforcement attitudes that prevails in today’s society, a need to feel important, and revenge. I personally feel sickened that it even got to this point and that some folks actually portrayed this gossip as facts when they knew it was a flat out lie only seeking vengeance.
This all started on August 6, 2018 when I was told by Phillipsburg City Councilman Mike James that Phillipsburg Public Works supervisor Tim Driggs had seen a surveillance video showing Nathan Schwenn, Pat Hewitt, and another unidentified deputy breaking into Travis Wagner’s home. James said he learned this, while Lance Munyon, City Clerk Brenda Chance and he were sitting around the table after the Phillipsburg City Council meeting. He said several other members of the council were in the area but he did not know if they heard anything. I spoke with Brenda Chance and she was reluctant to talk with me due to her being afraid that “my job could be affected,” she finally told me she overheard Drigg’s statement. She asked him if it was credible and he said “I saw it” and it was “Schwenn, Hewitt, and someone else planting evidence.” Both James and Chance reported this with the belief this could be a serious crime and needed to be investigated. Mayor Munyon never reported anything or made a comment until interviewed by the KBI.
Undersheriff Gary Stephen and I had been hearing rumors and scuttlebutt about Schwenn breaking into houses while he was employed at the Sheriff’s Office. Stephen had already talked with Wagner on Sunday evening prior to the Phillipsburg City Council meeting. Wagner told Stephen that he had put a camera in his house and gave a video, that he never watched, to other people after the camera was stolen from his home in February 2018. He said he was sure the Sheriff’s Office was sending informants over to his house to sell him drugs and people were coming into his house, and he was being set up. Wagner said he never showed the video to Drigg’s and never mentioned Hewitt or other names. As he had not watched the video. He had no idea why Drigg’s would say that. Wagner said he made it known the video existed so people would leave him alone. Stephen told Wagner because of the allegations we felt the KBI needed to be involved. Wagner agreed and said he thought about calling the KBI but never did.
On August 7th, 2018 a letter to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) requesting they begin an investigation of the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office. That week two agents from the KBI were here and began their investigation.
The KBI Called Travis Wagner and he declined an interview until he could talk with an attorney.
Later, Travis Wagner agreed to an interview at his home and said he was going to disappoint the KBI agents because he did not have any video. He said unusual things were happening in his home while he was gone so he put up a camera that looked like a USB charger that plugged into a wall receptacle. Wagner said he had made it “known” he had a camera but never watched anything on it. He said he stayed with friends for a short time and when he came home the camera was gone and a key to his house was left on the table. Wagner told his sister Nicole Wagoner that his house had been burglarized, hoping the information would get out and the harassment would stop. Travis said his sister dated Schwenn at the time and she used to have a key to his house. He suspected his ex-girlfriend may have been in his house at first but remembered she had given her key back when they broke up. Travis said he never told Driggs about the video and never told anyone how many people were in it because he never saw the video. He suspected Schwenn because of the key being left on the table and he had access to the key.
Tim Driggs was interviewed and was vague and non- committal with his answers about seeing a video of Sheriff’s deputies breaking into anyone’s home. He said many times he wanted “no problems with law enforcement,” refusing to say who told him about the video. Saying it may have been discussed and adding he may have seen it at his birthday party at the Sand Trap Bar and Grill; and he was extremely intoxicated. He admitted to talking with Phillipsburg Mayor Lance Munyon about the video. He also stated he would pass on to the person who he heard about the video from to call the KBI.
That same day Phillipsburg Mayor Lance Munyon was interviewed and said he heard about Travis Wagner’s home being broken into by law enforcement on two separate times. Once from James Hagman who said he heard about the video and there were two people one of them was Schwenn. The other time was from Tim Driggs after a city council meeting, where Driggs said he had seen the video and there were three people on it one person who was younger. Munyon did not know if Driggs had really seen it.
KBI agents interviewed Nicole Wagner who said she did have a key to Travis’s home but gave it to his ex-girlfriend and at no time ever gave Schwenn a key to Travis’s house. Travis did ask her to tell Schwenn to quit sending informants over to his house to try and sell him dope. He told her that his house had been burglarized and a camera he had had been stolen but he had backed the video up. He told her he just wanted to be left alone.
They also interviewed Amy Hanchett, who said that Travis Wagner told her that her ex-husband (Schwenn) had broken into his home several times and it was on camera. On one occurrence Schwenn and two deputies had broken into his house but he did not name the other deputies. Hanchett said she did not see any video and does not know of anyone who saw it at the bar. She told him to take it to the Sheriff’s Office but he told her he would not because he did not trust them. Hanchett said Wagner told her the burglaries happened when Schwenn was dating his sister Nicole and they got along well “hanging out together”. Hanchett remembers talking to Driggs the weekend of his birthday party and he had told her he had not seen the burglary video, but talked about another video of Schwenn and his girlfriend Samantha.
A second interview happened with Tim Driggs after Mayor Munyon spoke with him. Driggs was much more forth coming and honest during this interview. Driggs said he was at the Sand Trap Bar and Grill for his birthday party when the bartender, Amy Hanchett told him she had in her possession a video that showed her ex-husband Nathan Schwenn entering the home of Travis Wagner. She also said she had sent a copy to CPOST (Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training) and he did not see the video. Driggs said he spoke with Travis Wagner later and Wagner wanted to show him a video of Schwenn. Travis then showed him a video of Schwenn walking through the Phillipsburg fire station videoing his girlfriend in the back of an ambulance. Wagner then told him he had another one of Schwenn entering his residence. Driggs told KBI agents he had told Mayor Munyon after the City Council meeting that he saw the video due to his dislike for the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office. He responded emotionally and lied when he confided with Munyon that he had seen the video. Driggs said he did not intend for his conversation with Munyon to be made public. (It should be noted however the conversation was in a public building, after a public meeting, with a group of public officials, and not behind closed doors). Driggs said several times he believes Travis Wagner has something and added that he knew the third deputy was Todd Geist. Driggs said after the first interview he spoke with Amy Hanchett and asked her to speak with the KBI. Driggs requested no further involvement in fear of retaliation from the Sheriff’s Office.
I want to directly address Drigg’s fear of retaliation. Retaliation of any kind will never be tolerated in my department and would result in disciplinary action taken against any Sheriff’s Office employee. Tim Driggs wrongfully believes the Phillips County Sheriff’s Department has it out for him. Because of this fear I believe he intentionally targeted Nathan Schwenn, Pat Hewitt, and Todd Geist with his lies.
These severe, malicious, and possible career ending accusations, that were based on gossip and lies caused issues with other investigations being completed by the department and problems with cases currently being prosecuted by the County Attorney. Because of this, I felt it was necessary to inform you, the public of Phillips County, about the investigation and give you truthful, accurate, and precise information.
Integrity is the cornerstone of law enforcement and should a deputy of mine be found without it, they will not be employed here.
Phillips County Kansas