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Sheriff reacts to arrest of school officer

Sheriff Charlie McDonald speaks at a news conference. Sheriff Charlie McDonald speaks at a news conference.

Investigators arrested a Balfour Education Center school resource officer on three felony charges of having sex with a 16-year-old student after the Sheriff's Department received allegations of inappropriate conduct, the Henderson County Sheriff's Department said in a news release.


Deputy Daniel Lindsey, 27, was arrested without incident shortly after midnight at his residence in Mountain Home. Lindsey was charged with three felony counts of sex offense with a student. Arrest warrants charged that Lindsey had intercourse with a female who was a student at Balfour two times in October and once in December.

The Sheriff's Office learned of the allegations shortly after 5 p.m. on Friday.

“Unfortunately, the preliminary investigation quickly revealed evidence supporting probable cause to obtain warrants for the arrest of Deputy Daniel Lindsey, a school resource officer at the Balfour Education," the sheriff said during a 13-minute news conference at the Law Enforcement Center.

“Once we started with the investigation, things rolled around pretty quickly,” he said. “Once we saw certain evidence I felt like time was of the essence and we continued around the clock. Most of the officers finished about 6 o’clock this morning.”

McDonald, who has given news conferences infrequently, reacted quickly to the public relations side of the story in the context ot a sheriff's race that is starting to heat up and his own characterization of his administration as one of reform, professional standards and integrity. Even with personnel safeguards in place, he said, misconduct can occur.

“At 12:45 a.m. I terminated Mr. Lindsey from the position of deputy sheriff and from employment by the Henderson County sheriff’s office,” he said.

Deputies arrested the fellow officer and transported him to the sheriff’s office, where they served him with three felony warrants.

Investigators are unaware of any contact the SRO had with any other Balfour students, he said. The sexual offense did not occur on the campus, he said.

Asked whether the sexual intercourse was consensual, McDonald said, “Yes, but in the situation where you have an officer or somebody in a custodial situation like that, that has no bearing on the case. In fact that particular statute was put in place to help prevent situations like that — teacher-student, law enforcement officer, any custodial official.”

A native of Asheville, Lindsey had been with the department since 2008. He was also a DARE officer. McDonald said the sheriff's office will assign a deputy to work at Balfour school on Tuesday.

The investigation is continuing.

“I do not doubt that there may be some other charges but I suspect those will relate to the same victim,” he said.

The sheriff said the department has safeguards in place for hiring officers.

“We do extremely thorough checks. Not to pass the buck. This was an officer who had worked here before (McDonald became sheriff),” he said. “Had no reason that I’m aware of to doubt his competence to be a school resource officer. At this point in time all of our background checks yield about an 83 percent washout rate just hiring deputies in general. But certainly this is a very sensitive position — any law enforcement officer but particularly those that are for the welfare of students."

Deputies transported Lindsey to the Transylvania County jail, where he was booked under $45,000 bond. He bonded out Saturday morning, the sheriff said.

“It keeps things above board as far as the community," he said when asked about jailing Lindsey in Brevard. "It also keeps us from putting other officers who have worked with this officer in a situation where they don’t really need to be in having to keep in custody somebody that worked with."

McDonald said he considered calling in the SBI but wanted to move quickly and decided against that. He stayed in contact with District Attorney Greg Newman about the situation, he said.

“Certainly nothing’s foolproof,” he said when asked how the arrest squares with his focus on professional standards and tough background checks that reject 83 percent of job applicants. “As I said today most of the officers working for me were working here when I got here. However, I can tell you with great confidence, the integrity of this department certainly is intact,” he said. “We do a lot now as we hire. Certainly one of the hallmarks is our dedication to the oath of office, to integrity, to the badge and honor. Truly we’re all sickened by this. We work so hard and we’ll continue to work hard to keep the public’s trust. It’s in everything we do, it’s in our training.”

He said the department would review SRO standards to see if anything needs to change.

“We’re going to go back and look at it,” he said. “We can ever go through something like this and say there’s nothing to be learned or changed. I feel good about the oversight we have with SROs but they are out there by themselves, at times. We do have supervision for them. We’ve got training. Obviously we’ve got policies.”