The Iowa Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for a former Forest City police officer who was found guilty of setting the police building on fire and stealing another officer’s gun. Court records show that in early September 2011, the Forest City police station was vandalized, including a spray-painted statement, “Pigs Will Die.” On October 1, 2011, shortly after officer Thadeus Ellenbecker finished his work shift, a fire occurred in the evidence room of the police station. Three days after the fire, on October 4, Ellenbecker reported he had been assaulted in the police station’s garage.
The Forest City Police Chief then requested the DCI conduct an investigation of Ellenbecker. Following an interview with Ellenbecker at the law enforcement center, a DCI agent became concerned that Ellenbecker seemed depressed, and followed him back to his nearby apartment building. The agent saw that Ellenbecker had a gun and tried to subdue him. Another agent heard the struggle and came over and shot Ellenbecker in the leg.
DCI agents later questioned Ellenbecker at the hospital, but told him they were only trying to help him and he was not in custody. And he admitted to the crimes.
Ellenbecker went to trial in November and was found guilty of second-degree arson and second-degree burglary. Ellenbecker sought to have the statements he made at the hospital thrown out because he was not advised of his Miranda Rights prior to the questioning.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Ellenbecker was in custody and should have been read his rights. The court ruled any statements made by Ellenbecker after he was taken into custody at the apartment complex are inadmissible, and ordered a new trial.
See the full ruling here: Ellenbecker ruling PDF