Cemetery Flap Ensnares Sheriff

By Lee White

A Facebook post circulated this weekend about an incident at McGill Cemetery near Potwin accused Sheriff Kelly Herzet of threatening to arrest a man who drove over the grave marker of Herzet’s father. Adriane Young Bowlin posted the photos (above) and this account of the incident on her Facebook page:

On the afternoon of August 17, my husband Grant, along with my 6-year-old son was out at McGill cemetery helping my father put dirt on my grandparent’s graves, that for quite some time has been sunken in about 6” and not taken care of properly. This process consisted of pulling trailer up next to the grave site. My husband was very careful not to disturb any of the other grave sites. Once my husband reached my grandparents grave site, he was approached by Dave Hall. Dave said that he would appreciate it if they did not drive through the cemetery. Grant asked him what he should do. Dave’s attitude immediately changed and he said, “I would have used a f@$#ing wheel barrel.” To which Grant responded “there are 3 tractor bucket loads to fill the neglected sunken grave. I wouldn’t have had to drive through the cemetery if the grounds keeper/township properly maintained the grave sites. Dave Hall then told Grant move his vehicle. Grant went ahead and unloaded the dirt and raked it out to make it look nice (see pic). Under Dave’s watchful eye Grant drove forward, which was the only way to get out of his location. There was a foot stone that was impossible to avoid. Slowly and carefully Grant proceeded to drive out. The foot stone was undamaged but there was tall unmowed grass laying over it. So Grant drove my father home and then decided to stop at the store to get him and my son something to drink. When he returned to the vehicle, Sherriff Kelly Herzet approached the passenger side of the vehicle without announcing who he was. Herzet then blurted out “Are you the son of bitch that ran over my dad’s WWII plate (footstone)”. My husband apologized to Sherriff Herzet. But Herzet began threatening to arrest Grant for desecration of a grave over and over again. The whole time Herzet is threatening Grant, my 6-year-old son is sitting in the seat behind him. This I feel is and was inappropriate for the Sherriff of Butler County to conduct himself this way in front of a child. After this incident, my child was scared and crying asking Grant if he is going to go to jail. I feel like situation was not handled properly and conducted as the Sherriff of Butler County should act towards any citizen let alone in front of a child. So I proceeded to call the Butler County Sheriff’s office to try to get ahold of Herzet to speak with him about the situation and hopefully get an apology for the way he conducted himself in front of my child. I was told by the sheriff’s office that they would get a message to Herzet and have him call me. After some time, with no phone call, I called the sheriff’s office back only to be told that they could not bother Sheriff Herzet after 5 as his hours are from 8 to 5. Knowing Herzet my whole life, I decided to call him personally as I still have my child upset about not knowing why the police officer was yelling at his dad. After leaving message, Herzet finally called me back, only to be very rude and continue to threaten my husband with jail time and said that he was not to step foot out at the cemetery or he would be arrested. I told Herzet that I did not appreciate that way he acted in front of my child and that there were many ways that he could have handled the situation properly. I got an apology that I feel was not meaningful.
I returned the following afternoon to check out the so-called desecration of the WWII plate (foot stone). As you can see in the picture, nothing about the foot stone is damaged or even disturbed. As a matter of fact, the stone is deep enough in the ground that it can be mowed right over.

As a citizen of Butler County, the majority of my life, it worries me that the Sheriff feels like he can conduct himself in this unprofessional manor. If he was approaching my husband on a personal level then he should NOT be able to threaten Grant that he was going to arrest him. If he was approaching him as the Sheriff of Butler County then apparently Sheriff Herzet has forgotten his code of conduct. As stated on the Butler County Sheriff’s web site: 
It is our mission, as representatives of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, to serve all citizens, whomever they may be, with respect. We accomplish this by being ethical, professional, courteous, and efficient in order to meet the issues of law enforcement in an ever-changing society, while respecting the rights of the individual citizen.

On a side note: I told Sheriff Kelly Herzet that because of the way he acted, he has lost out vote. He then stated to me that he doesn’t need our votes. Maybe he has forgotten that we the people of Butler County are the ones that put him in office.

Sheriff Herzet issued the following statement in an e-mail Sunday afternoon:

I was contacted by David Hall that Grant Bowlin and Robert Young had left ruts on my Father and Mothers grave. We had just had about two inches of rain the day before. I stopped by the cemetery and witnessed it myself. What upset me the most was driving over my dads  WW II gravestone. I did photograph the ruts and the stone being ran over. 
When I pulled into Potwin where I live I saw Grant sitting in his suburban with a trailer attached across from the grocery store. I. did approach him on the passenger side and told him to stay off my folks grave. He commented something back and I told him again if he leaves ruts on my folks grave again and I could prove it was him I would do my best to arrest him. Grant smarted off something else and I walked away. I didn’t see his son sitting in the back seat. 
I later called his wife Adrian and apologized to her and told her I didn’t see the boy in the back seat. While I was talking to her I could hear Grant yelling obscenities at me in the back ground.
I believe the matter at the cemetery could have been handled with a shovel and a wheelbarrow.
Lee after I got home I did get a visit from Robert Young who has been a friend of mine our whole life. Robert Young came to my home and apologized to me and I accepted his apology and I thought things were good. Robert did agree a shovel and wheelbarrow would have been better idea.
As I told Herzet, I wasn’t there, so I really don’t know what went on. I was going to hold off on writing about the incident until Monday, but since Herzet answered my e-mail on Sunday and gave his side, I’m going ahead and publishing it. There’s quite a bit of interest that has been generated via Facebook.
Both sides seem to agree it would be a good idea to use a wheelbarrow next time a grave needs fill dirt. The area has received more rain than usual for this time of year, so driving any vehicle over a cemetery is likely to produce ruts. I’ve already heard from a veteran who’s upset about either this incident or another one like it.
I don’t think the Youngs intended to cause damage or to show disrespect toward Herzet’s father, who was a veteran, but I can’t blame Sheriff Herzet for being upset that someone left tire marks on his parents’ graves. I’d feel the same way if someone did that to mine. I believe most of us would.
Perhaps those involved in this incident and those in Facebook Land should file this under “lessons learned” and move on. Emotions tend to run high when our deceased loved ones are involved. My last visit to the family plots at Sunset Lawns in El Dorado on Memorial Day weekend ended with an ambulance ride for my wife, who suffered her first-ever — and I hope last — grand mal seizure. I hope for a little less drama next time and extend those same wishes to the Young family, as well as Sheriff Herzet and his retired deputy, Dave Hall.