A box of riot control munitions found in an arms storage room in the sheriff’s office sparked some pre-election rhetoric between current Sheriff Tom Kochert and former interim Sheriff Gary Mohre Friday.
The two men face each other in the Nov. 3 general election — Kochert as the Republican and Mohre as a write-in — and both said the incident is a perfect example of why they are the better candidate to serve as the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Kochert said the box lacked proper documentation, and because it is technically county-owned property, he brought it to the attention of the Williams County Commissioners at their meeting Thursday.
But Mohre said the box was part of a mutual aid effort to help another law enforcement agency, was ultimately not needed and was returned, and maintains there was no need for Kochert to go public with his find other than to discredit him.
“He should’ve just called me before he went to the commissioners. Then he would have known it was proper and legal,” Mohre said Friday. Mohre stepped in March 18 as interim sheriff after the resignation of former sheriff Steve Towns, and served until Kochert won the April Republican party primary and took office in mid-May.
“I was just trying to do the right thing, the legal thing,” Kochert said. “I was concerned ... so I asked the commissioners if there was a (county) resolution, or some documentation that this had been transferred. And if not, what should I do with it.”
The incident began at Thursday’s commissioner meeting, when Kochert told commissioners he found a box of assorted riot suppression munitions in the weapons store room earlier this month during a walk-through department inventory.
Atop the box was a letter dated June 1 and signed by Mohre on Mohre’s official sheriff’s department letterhead, detailing the contents of the box — including “crowd management” gas and rubber ball and bean bag projectiles. It was also signed on the “Released to” line by Mohre’s brother, Randy Mohre, a part-time Blakeslee and Edgerton police officer.
“So what I need to know is, is there (a county order) that has released these items to an individual? ... how do I proceed? I need to know what to do with these munitions,” Kochert said during Thursday’s meeting. He did not publicly reveal during the meeting the names on the letter.
Commissioners responded Thursday that they were unaware of any county order in reference to the munitions and suggested Kochert turn the matter over to the county prosecutor’s office.
On Friday, Mohre told The Bryan Times that in mid-June, the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Police Department had expended much of its riot suppression materials in the face of several consecutive days of downtown protests related to racial injustice. He said Fort Wayne police sent out a mutual aid call to other law enforcement agencies to borrow additional riot suppression materials.
Mohre said the Williams County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Bryan, Montpelier, Edgerton and Edon police departments, all responded by sending supplies of riot suppression equipment and materials to Fort Wayne.
However, Mohre said, the supplies were not used and were returned to their respective agencies — hence the box, with the letter on top, left in the store room, he said.
Bryan Police Chief Chris Chapa on Friday confirmed that the five local law enforcement agencies responded to the mutual aid call, and that the riot suppression equipment and materials were not used by Fort Wayne police and were returned.
Gary Mohre said his brother, Randy, was merely a responsible courier, transporting the munitions between Williams County and Fort Wayne. He questioned why Kochert did not either call him or make inquiries with other ranking members of the sheriff’s office who may have been able to explain the munitions box.
“I think this is why we need a new sheriff, one that knows what’s going on. One that’s not just making assumptions,” said Mohre. Asked by The Times if he felt that taking the issue public at a commissioner meeting was an election-related attempt to discredit him, Mohre responded: “Absolutely.”
Kochert Friday said his actions followed professional protocol and he unequivocally denied his actions were an election-related attempt to cast Mohre in a negative light.
“This is what happens when you don’t follow proper paperwork procedures. As an agency, you have to verify and document what you have. If it’s transferred out, there needs to be documentation for it,” Kochert said.
Kochert said he did not feel it was appropriate to call Mohre for an explanation, “given what I had in front of me, especially since he’s running against me.
“Whether it has a name on it or not, would not the proper thing be to go to the commissioners and say, ‘Hey, I have this box of munitions, I have this letter saying it’s been signed out to an individual, what do you want me to do with it?’”
Kochert said he was unaware of Mohre’s explanation until advised by The Bryan Times on Friday.
“If that’s what happened, it’s still not good practice in this day and age ... and it could also leave us exposed in the liability chain. What happens if some of this stuff doesn’t work ... It’s in (the storage room) and it’s unsecured, that’s why I brought it to the commissioners.
“Protocols were not followed ... that foresight is lacking with (Mohre). I would say this is a clear reason to elect me,” Kochert said.