When an FBI agent and representative of the Office of the Inspector General came to the Barry County Sheriff’s Office in March of 2014, it set off months of rumors and speculation.
The agents were collecting information for investigation of possible fraudulent activity in connection with the death of Barry County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Yonkers, with the focus on attorneys for the Thin Blue Line and Workman’s Compensation Bureau and the state arbitrator, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said Sept. 8.
“FBI agent John King told me the case is closed. He told me they found no fraudulent activity by anyone…there was ‘no smoking gun,” Leaf said. “When the FBI was here, they asked me not to talk about it. I kept it hush-hush because it was not Barry County’s case and it’s not appropriate to talk about another agency’s case while it’s still under investigation,” he added.
Though the FBI had a search warrant, Leaf said they didn’t need it. “I signed a consent form giving them the records and paperwork of our internal investigation. There were no computers taken from the office, contrary to rumors at the time.”
“I wasn’t worried about the case and I was not surprised by the outcome…with the case closed, we can finally let the families have closure and move on with their lives.” //
Background: Yonkers was assigned to the Southwest Enforcement Team (SWET)., a unit that carries out undercover drug investigations.
In October of 2008, he was killed in a collision with a car while riding his motorcycle on East M-43 near Usborne Road. The driver of the car, Justin Malik, was tried and convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol/marijuana causing death, and sentenced to five to 15 years in prison in June, 2011. He was released in June of this year.
Conflicting accounts by law enforcement surfaced following Yonkers’ death. A major issue was if Yonkers was on duty, working undercover when he died, or if he was on personal time.
If working when he died, his family would receive considerable federal and state death benefits paid when an officer dies in the line of duty.
Leaf said they first thought Yonkers was working undercover. “After the funeral, we found out some other things, so we did an internal investigation. We don’t know what he was doing at the time of his death,” he said.
The FBI became involved after the Thin Blue Line challenged the sheriff’s office response and took the complaint to a state arbitrator, who ruled it was a workman’s compensation issue.
The Thin Blue Line is a non-profit organization that exists to provide help in financial, legal, benefit recovery issues and much more to disabled or deceased members of the emergency services community, including police.
The issue has been argued in several different courts since Yonkers’ death. To his knowledge, Leaf said, the Yonkers family has not received any compensation from federal, state or local agencies for benefits regarding an in the line of duty death.
When contacted for a comment, the media coordinator in the Detroit FBI office said he would look into the case and release any information he could, however nothing has been forwarded for several days.