A suspended South Bend police officer is sitting in the LaPorte County jail after being arrested on suspicion of his 3rd DUI in less than a year.
According to a police report, McKee hit a pair of telephone utility boxes in the 3900 block of County Road 350 N near Rolling Prairie Saturday night. His blood alcohol content was 0.15 – nearly twice the legal limit – when he was booked into the LaPorte County Jail around 7:15 p.m.
Neighbors who claim to know him well say this may be a case of a man who is now struggling because he served his country.
“He’s a hell of a nice guy,” said McKee’s neighbor, John Wright.
Wright said he and others vouched for McKee in 2007 when representatives from the South Bend police department went door-to-door in their LaPorte neighborhood before hiring him.
McKee’s first four years on the department went without a single reprimand, then the National Guard sent him on his most recent deployment overseas.
“He didn’t talk about it much like most of them don’t because they go through hell overseas in those kinds of situations,” Wright said.
It was after the deployment, however, Wright and other neighbors noticed a change in McKee. They suspected post traumatic stress disorder.
“One night I guess he got the neighbor up at 3 in the morning and wanted him over at his house,” said neighbor Diana Makina. “He had seen something, he said, ‘We’re gonna do surveillance, he says there’s somebody up here on the roof.’ And I think it’s from the tours in Iraq he had gone to.”
After returning home from that deployment, McKee missed a handgun on a suspect during a pat down. An employee at the Juvenile Justice Center discovered the gun after McKee handcuffed the suspect and transported him to the JJC. Chief Daryl Boykins suspended McKee and ordered him to undergo remedial training, saying McKee put fellow officers and others “in grave danger.”
Then in 2012, interim Chief Chuck Hurley suspended McKee two days for rolling his squad car while responding to a call, going the wrong way on a one way street.
Also in the last couple years, sources tell WSBT McKee was in the 600 block of LaPorte Avenue in South Bend when police exchanged gunfire between a suspect and some officers. According to sources, McKee went to his higher ups in the department, saying he needed some time off because of his PTSD but his supervisors told him he had to be back on the street the next day.
McKee has recently been seeing a therapist in South Bend, said neighbor Mike Cowgill, but said he felt like the military and the city could have done more.
Sources also told WSBT South Bend’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #36, the department and the city have all tried to help McKee.
South Bend Police Capt. Phil Trent said Monday he can’t disclose any of that information because even if the city or department did reach out to McKee, it’s a personnel matter and is confidential.
McKee was in jail without bond Monday night because he was arrested while out on bond for the February DUI charge. He is scheduled to appear in front of a judge Wednesday.
LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi told WSBT he anticipates filing official charges from Saturday’s arrest.
It is not clear when McKee will face South Bend’s Board of Public Safety about his job.