Former Menard County Sheriff’s Deputy Shot Her Gun Inside and Outside Her Home; Almost Hit a Bicyclist in Separate Incident

(Left) Former Menard County Sheriff’s Deputy, Kelsey M. Wooldridge (Right) A bicyclist at a triathlon who was nearly struck due to Wooldridge’s reckless driving

Menard County, Illinois – In a follow up from our previous article (Ex-Menard Deputy Arrested For DUI; Allegedly Slapped Deputy at the Jail), we have gathered additional details surrounding Kelsey M. Wooldridge’s resignation from the Menard County Sheriff’s Office.

According to internal investigation reports we received, Wooldridge came under investigation after she crashed her squad car while assigned to a traffic control detail for a triathlon that occurred in Menard County on May 6, 2023 (VIDEOS AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE). According to records, at 10:35 a.m., Wooldridge was involved in a single-vehicle crash not far from the location where she was assigned to perform traffic control duties. She lost control of her patrol car when she entered a curve too fast, nearly striking a bicyclist before crashing into the ditch and coming to a rest in a nearby farm field. She was transported to the hospital by ambulance, evaluated for injuries as a result of the crash, and was released.

Menard County Sheriff Mark Oller and Deputy Sheriff Benjamin Hollis reviewed Wooldridge’s in-car camera footage and documented their observations. “During the review of the video, it was noted that she left her assigned post and began accelerating rapidly. She drove off the road onto the shoulder multiple times and crossed the centerline into the left lane. She then entered the curve traveling at approximately 74 mph, lost control of the vehicle, and crashed. When the vehicle was out of control, a nearby bicyclist was nearly struck by the vehicle. The bicyclist was observed on video, jumping off the bicycle to attempt to avoid being struck.” The Deputy Sheriff continued in his report and wrote, “Kelsey notified dispatch via radio of the crash, but much of the information she provided to dispatch was confusing and did not make sense.” (CLICK HERE TO READ THE RADIO TRAFFIC)

In a meeting on May 9, 2023, at 10:00 a.m., Sheriff Oller and Chief Deputy Sheriff Hollis met with Wooldridge at the Sheriff’s Office. According to notes, the meeting was not disciplinary, but it was to determine what had happened to cause the crash and to determine if Wooldridge was medically okay. According to notes from that meeting, Wooldridge said that she had decided to leave her post briefly to check on the oncoming bicyclists. She said that she did not realize she was driving that fast and had no explanation for why she was doing so. When asked why she was driving so poorly before the crash, she said she did not know. She stated, “I was so tired, I just wanted it to get done so I could leave” and restated, “I just needed to get out of there for a minute.” Chief Deputy Sheriff Hollis noted that she stressed how she “needed to get out of there” but had no explanation for why.

At the meeting, Wooldridge was also shown the footage from her in-car video system. She said, “It looks like someone who drives drunk.” However, there were no reports from emergency personnel that responded to the crash indicating she had consumed alcohol. It was noted that Wooldridge was insistent about not being under the influence of alcohol or any other compounds while at work that day. During the meeting, it was also noted that while Wooldridge was speaking, at some point she began to cry and explained that she was suffering from a medical condition that was not disclosed to us. She said that she was “so tired” all the time and experienced a lot of stress. She also mentioned that on the day of her crash, it was her mother’s birthday. She said, “that day is supposed to be a happy day, but it wasn’t.”

Wooldridge was told to go home for the rest of the day and that she could return to work the next day, on May 10, 2023. Chief Deputy Sheriff Hollis reported that as he was making contacts, gathering information, and evaluating her fitness to return to work, at approximately 2:18 p.m., he received a text message from Wooldridge. “I reviewed the text message and saw that it was a photograph with no message. The photograph was of a wall with a hole in it and nearby furniture post with damage. From my training and experience, I believed the hole and damage to have been caused by a bullet.” Chief Deputy Sheriff Hollis said he replied to the message and asked what it was. Wooldridge responded and said, “That was about 2-3 years ago,” “It’s a bullet hole.” Chief Deputy Hollis said he asked how it happened, and Wooldridge responded, “I’d show you the one in my fence, but we took that down. [Name withheld] doesn’t know about the one in the fence.” Chief Deputy Hollis then told Wooldridge that he would be coming to her residence and asked her to meet with him outside.

Chief Deputy Hollis said he immediately went to Wooldridge’s residence in Petersburg and called her outside to sit in his squad car so they could talk. “Kelsey began to cry and said that the bullet holes were from times in the past when she (Information Withheld). She said that both times she didn’t (Information Withheld) but still fired the weapon. We continued to talk, and I asked her if (Information Withheld). She didn’t answer that question right away, and she told me, “I’m not religious, I should be more, but I’m not.” She said that (Name Withheld) is aware of (Information Withheld) but tells her they will continue to work on them. She stated several times how much she loved (Information/Name Withheld). At one point during the conversation, Kelsey said (Information Withheld) but then she immediately stopped what she was saying, as if she wanted to retract what she said. I told her that I had no choice but to (Information Withheld), and she said she understood. I also explained to her that we would be taking her agency-issued weapons and any other firearms in the house, and she said she understood and agreed.

Chief Deputy Hollis also stated that the Wooldridge residence is in a residential neighborhood, surrounded by other houses. He added that there’s a church parking lot to the east of her house. “Discharging a firearm in this area is unsafe and a danger to anyone else in the area,” Chief Deputy Hollis noted. He said he informed Sheriff Oller and asked him to meet at Wooldridge’s house. While they waited, Wooldridge said she had fired her gun at home once after her friend died. Chief Deputy Hollis remembered her taking the day off work when her friend died, which was less than 2-3 years ago. After he made this statement, she agreed.

Chief Deputy Hollis reported that while waiting for Sheriff Oller, an individual whose identity was withheld arrived at the residence. He stated that he spoke with the individual and informed them of the situation, explaining that Wooldridge would be going to a location whose name was also withheld. Chief Deputy Hollis informed the individual that they would need to collect all agency-owned firearms/weapons from the residence, and any other privately owned guns would need to be removed or transferred to a responsible party.

Chief Deputy noted that while transporting Wooldridge to the undisclosed location, he had a conversation with her during which she shared her feelings about certain days, expressing a lack of family support. She mentioned instances of personal struggles and stated that she would never want to harm anyone else.

Wooldridge then described past incidents of firing a gun at home, including the picture she sent to Deputy Chief Hollis and a hole in the fence. She shared emotions related to a previous event that was not disclosed in this report. It was also noted that she said she was also having a very difficult time dealing with the fact that she had nearly killed the bicyclist when she crashed her squad car. “She continually apologized to me, and I told her she owed me no apology and I was very glad she had reached out,” Chief Deputy Hollis wrote. “I asked her if there was anything else I need to know about, and she said she thought she had told me everything at this point.”

The next day, on May 11, 2023, a letter was prepared to give to Wooldridge to notify her of her continued leave, but at 3:32 p.m., prior to Deputy Chief Hollis stating he was going to her residence to give her the letter, he and Sheriff Oller were notified of a 911 call at Wooldridge’s residence.

According to a separate report, Sheriff Oller, Chief Deputy Hollis, Sergeant Jason Foulk, Sheriff Deputy Jason Huffman, all from the Menard County Sheriff’s Office, and Petersburg Police Department Assistant Chief Royce Shamhart and Menard County EMS, responded to Wooldridge’s residence after receiving a call regarding a possible overdose from ingestion of an unknown chemical. Sgt. Foulk reported that upon arrival at the residence, he was informed that Wooldridge had consumed some sort of spray and had then vomited, which was probably the chemical. “I was able to get the bottle of chemical,” he reported. “I observed the bottle was Nature’s Miracle just for cats no more spraying. The bottle was completely empty when I picked up the bottle.” Deputy Huffman and Wooldridge walked to the ambulance, and Wooldridge was placed on the cot and transported to the hospital.

Wooldridge was cited as violating several Menard County Sheriff’s policies:

Policy #305:

Wooldridge violated policy #305 (specifically 305.5 and 305.7) by failing to safely handle firearms. This occurred on two separate instances, when Wooldridge self-admitted that she fired a weapon inside her home and through a fence in her backyard. Wooldridge resides in a residential neighborhood, with her residence surround by other residences. Also, to the east of her residence is a parking lot utilized for a church. The two reported discharges are not only unsafe and negligent, but may be criminal in nature as well. Furthermore, secant 305.7 requires members to report the discharge of a firearm unless for recreational use or euthanizing an injured animal.

Policy #307:

Section 307.2(c) The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle may (625 ILCS 5.11-205) exceed the speed limits so long as he/she does not endanger life or property.

The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle is not relieved from the duty of driving with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor do such provisions protect the driver from the consequences of his/her reckless disregard for the safety of others (625 ILCS 5/11-205(e))

Section 307.4 Deputies/Officers shall exercise sound judgement and care with due regard for life and property when respond to an emergency call. Deputies/Officers shall reduce speed at all street intersection to such a degree that they shall have complete control of the vehicle

Wooldridge violated these sections of the policy and state statue by exceeding the speed limit with reasonable justification and nearly striking a bicyclist, which is evidence by the footage from the in-car video system.

Policy #320:

Section 320.4 Members shall conduct themselves, whether on- or off duty, in accordance with the United States and Illinois constitutions and all applicable laws, ordinances, and rules enacted or established pursuant to legal authority. Members shall familiarize themselves with policies and procedures and are responsible for compliance with each.

Section 320.5 The following are illustrative of causes for disciplinary action. This list is not intended to cover every possible type of misconduct and does not preclude the recommendation of disciplinary action for violation of other rules, standard, ethics and specific action or inaction that is detrimental to efficient agency service. 320.5.1 (c) Violation of federal, state, local or administrative laws, rules or regulations.

Wooldridge’s conduct, as referenced in the internal investigation report, violated multiple state statues and agency policies. The policies and statues are detailed below.

Section 320.5.5 (a) Leaving the job to which the member is assigned during duty hours without a reasonable excuse and proper permission and approval.

Wooldridge left her assignment of traffic control on 05/06/23 without justification or approval from a supervisor. There was not legitimate explanation for why she did this.

Section 320.5.7 (a) Neglect of Duty (b) Unsatisfactory work performance including but not limited to failure, incompetence, inefficiency, or delay in performance and/or carrying out proper orders, work assignments, or the instruction of supervisors without a reasonable and bona fide excuse.

Wooldridge left her assigned post and duties on 05/06/23, without justification or approval from a superior. No reasonable explantation for doing so was provided by Wooldridge.

Section 320.5.8 (a) Failure to disclose or misrepresenting material facts, or making any false or misleading statement on any application, examination form, or other official document, report or form, or during the Cours of any work-related investigation. (b) The falsification of any work-related records, making misleading entries or statement with the intent to deceive. (c) Failure to participate in, or giving false or misleading statements, or misrepresenting or omitting material information to a supervisor or other person in a position of authority, in connection with any investigation or in the reporting of any office-related business.

Wooldridge violated his policy by providing false information to dispatch, other deputies, and supervisors after the crash occurred on 05/06/23. Wooldridge made references to a vehicle that she was allegedly attempting to locate. A review of the in-car video showed no evidence to support Wooldridge’s statement. After a thorough investigation, Wooldridge’s account of incidents prior to and during the traffic crash were proven to be false.

Section 320.5.9 (h) Criminal dishonest, or disgraceful conduct, whether on- or off-duty, that adversely affect the member’s relationship with this office. (m) Any other on- or off-duty conduct which any member knows or reasonably should know is unbecoming a member of this office, in contrary to good order, efficiency or morale, or tends to reflect unfavorable upon this office or its members.

Wooldridge violated this policy by recklessly and unsafely discharging a firearm in and outside her home on two occasions (self-admitted) and by recklessly and unsafely operating her agency-owned squad car.

Section 320.5.10 (a) Failure to observe or violation agency safety standards or safe working practices. (d) Unsafe firearm or other dangerous weapon handling to include loading or unloading firearms in an unsafe manner, either on- or off-duty. (f) Unsafe or improper driving habits or actions in the course of employment or appointment. (g) Any personal action contributing to a preventable traffic crash.

Wooldridge violated this policy by recklessly and unsafely discharging a firearm in and outside her home on two occasions (self-admitted) and by recklessly and unsafely operating her agency-owned squad car. Discharged rounds from a firearm could have very easily struck another person in the area of Wooldridge’s home. Wooldridge failed to safely operate her agency-owned squad, exceeding the speed limit, driving off the roadway and into the oncoming lane, and nearly striking a bicyclist. She was involved in a preventable traffic crash that was caused by her own actions without any justification.

Wooldridge violated state statutes, including but not limited to:

  • 625 ILCS 5/11-205: Public officers and employees to obey Act-Exceptions
  • 625 ILCS 5/11-502: Reckless Driving
  • 625 ILCS 5/11-601(a): Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident
  • 625 ILCS 5/11-601(b): Speeding – Over Statutory Limit
  • 625 ILCS 5/11-701: Driving in the wrong lane
  • 625 ILCS 5/11-709: Improper lane usage
  • 720 ILCS 5/24-1.5: Reckless discharge of a Firearm
  • 720 ILCS 5/12-5: Reckless conduct

It was also noted that Policy 320.5.1 (c) states that members shall not violate federal, state, local or administrative laws, rules or regulations.

Editor’s Note: Upon Springfield Leaks’ review of the policies Wooldridge violated, it appears that a specific policy she violated is cited but redacted from the report. However, we are considering appealing this redaction with the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor or filing a lawsuit to challenge it.

Video above is the in-car camera of Wooldridge nearly hitting a bicyclist at a triathlon in Menard County, Illinois (If you can’t view the video, click here)

Video above is the in-car camera of the rear view of Wooldridge’s squad car after she nearly hit a bicyclist at a triathlon in Menard County, Illinois. The video shows the airbags being deployed. (If you can’t view the video, click here)

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