Family of teen in fight with officer denied chance to address safety board

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The family of the teenager who was involved in a fight with a former deputy police chief last fall hoped to plead their case to the Board of Public Safety Thursday night, but the Board voted to not have them speak. Derrick Westfield was demoted to captain in January, but the Gonzales family doesn’t think that’s enough. 

“I can’t say anything. I’m just… it is what it is. You heard what they said in there,” John Gonzales said in the hallway after leaving the meeting early.

While Gonzales had talked exclusively with 15 Finds Out since the incident last November, he said his lawyer is advising him to not do any more interviews now. But he did say he’s disappointed.

He’s disappointed he couldn’t talk to the Board of Public Safety  and he’s disappointed former Deputy Chief Derrick Westfield was demoted to captain and not a lower rank and didn’t have any time off.

Westfield and Gonzales’ 17-year-old son were involved in an apparent road rage incident that started in the Union Chapel and Auburn Roads roundabout and ended in a physical altercation in the Gonzales’ driveway last fall. The family showed 15 Finds out the pictures of what the teenager looked like after.

The Allen County prosecutor decided to not file any charges – saying the witness statements contradicted each other. In January, Chief Steve Reed demoted Westfield to Captain.

“It’s not enough. He’s still in charge of people,” Gonzales told 15 Finds Out in January.

Gonzales wanted to express that to the Board of Public Safety, and made it onto the agenda, but before he could talk, the board’s attorney did.

“The decision made by the Board is they’re going to let the discipline stand and if they were to hear the appeal the only thing the could do is uphold it or reverse it, but they cannot increase punishment so the decision of the board to not heard the appeal at this time,” Board Attorney Malak Heiny said.

15 Finds out looked up Indiana Law. It says the Public Safety Board has “exclusive control over all matters … related to police departments” and the statute lists reasons the Board can discipline, demote or dismiss a member of the department.


But, the board’s attorney explained that in a Fort Wayne case several years ago, the board doubled the punishment the police chief gave an officer, and a judge overturned it, saying the board doesn’t have jurisdiction.

“The only jurisdiction the Board has according to statute and case law is it can review it, uphold it, and can take back, but it cannot exceed punishment given by the chief,” Heiny said.

The Gonzales family has told 15 Finds Out in the past they’re looking into what recourse they could have in civil court.

All of NewsChannel 15’s attempts of the last several months to interview Westfield about this story have been denied.

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