Fatal shooting of Port Barrington man 'justified,' prosecutor says

  • A McHenry County sheriff's deputy fatally shot a Port Barrington man on Jan. 11. The shooting happened after police responded to a domestic violence call.

      A McHenry County sheriff's deputy fatally shot a Port Barrington man on Jan. 11. The shooting happened after police responded to a domestic violence call. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/8/2022 4:40 PM

Despite having a chemical intoxicant in his system, a McHenry County sheriff's deputy's actions were "justified" earlier this year when he fatally shot a Port Barrington man whose wife told police he was threatening to kill her, the county's top prosecutor said Wednesday.

Deputy Nicholas Arnold shot and killed Nicholas Sebastian, 43, at his home during an early morning exchange of gunfire on Jan. 11.

 

Sebastian's 41-year-old wife, who later told police Sebastian had been acting "like a demon," was shot in the leg by her husband before Arnold returned fire, authorities said.

Arnold did what he had to do "from the perspective of a reasonable officer in the same situation" to save the life of Sebastian's wife and his own, according to the report.

The report was one of two released Wednesday regarding shootings by McHenry County sheriff's deputies occurring within months of each other.

The other involving Randall Little, 58, of Harvard, who is charged with attempted first-degree murder of a deputy, also was deemed justified.

The report on the Sebastian shooting offered new insight into what police say transpired before Arnold shot Sebastian multiple times and killed him.

Two McHenry County sheriff's deputies responded about 1:10 a.m. Jan. 11 to Sebastian's home on the 200 block of Manchester Lane for a domestic violence situation, according to the report.

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Sebastian threatened to kill his wife, their two young sons and himself, she told investigators afterward.

When police arrived, Sebastian's wife ran out of the house through the garage and Sebastian, wearing a bulletproof vest and wielding a handgun, ran after her.

Sebastian began shooting, striking his wife, who was treated for nonlife-threatening injuries, according to police reports and the report issued by the state's attorney's office.

Arnold returned fire, killing Sebastian. The other deputy who responded with Arnold, Travis Bodway, did not fire any shots.

In a video taken by a dash camera in Bodway's squad, Bodway is "depicted turning on his flashlight and illuminating the garage area from the street," according to the report.

Arnold joined the McHenry County sheriff's office in January 2021, according to a Facebook post about his swearing-in. At the time, he was headed to the police academy for training.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The internal investigation into the Sebastian shooting, led by the McHenry County Major Investigations Assistance Team, found Arnold to have an intoxicant called DFE, or 1,1-difluoroethane, in his system.

It was unclear if he inhaled the chemical "prior to his shift or while on duty," according to the report.

The chemical is used as a propellant in consumer products such as keyboard cleaners and can be "huffed" to achieve an altered mental state and feelings of euphoria, light-headedness and disorientation.

Citing forensic toxicologists at both Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Laboratory and NMS Labs in Pennsylvania, the state's attorney's office said it is unlikely that normal environmental exposure could explain the concentration level found in Arnold's blood.

Both toxicologists indicated that the result is most consistent with "intentional use," according to the report.

When reached Wednesday morning, Jamie Wombacher, Arnold's attorney, said she had not yet seen the report and declined to comment.

Attempts to reach the McHenry County sheriff's office and the deputies Wednesday were not immediately successful.

Both deputies have been on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the outside investigation, authorities have said.

The McHenry County state's attorney's office is "gravely concerned" by the finding, and an investigation into the matter is ongoing, it said in the report.

Given the "totality of the circumstances," however, the office concluded the shooting was "justified."

"The lab result alone, however, is insufficient to change our opinion as to the lawfulness of the shooting," the state's attorney's office said in the report.

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