Family of slain jail officer wins battle for benefits

The widow and son of a Monroe County Jail officer murdered in 2005 will receive more than $275,000 in federal funds from the Public Safety Officer Benefits program.

The payment was approved last week, seven years after the benefit claim was filed and 13 years after Sgt. Bill Brand was shot and killed.

The funds will be used to provide educational assistance to widow Stacy Brand and her teenage son, according to attorney John Shean.

“I hope that this recent decision brings justice to a full measure for Sgt. Brand and his survivors,” Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain said by email on Thursday. “We have no other issues with the Brand case now.”

On Feb. 8, 2005, Brand was shot and killed while driving home after working the late shift at the jail.

Brand’s widow spent years seeking validation that he died in the line of duty, gunned down by a former jail inmate who hated law enforcement personnel. Stacy Brand and her attorney filed a wrongful death lawsuit in February 2007 against the man they suspected fired the fatal shot.

By October 2007, the same man named in the wrongful death suit — Benjamin Steinberg — was charged with murder in Brand’s death. A Monroe County jury in 2009 convicted Steinberg of murder, and he is currently serving a 65-year prison sentence.

“Mrs. Brand and her attorney John Shean have always believed Bill was the specific target, and it was related to his role as a public safety officer. The odds against Sgt. Brand’s death being a random and strange coincidence are astronomical,” Swain said. “That fact has now been fully recognized by staff at state and national offices who make the determination of what qualifies to be a line of duty death.”

During Swain’s first weeks as sheriff in 2015, he signed necessary paperwork required for death benefit applications. Shean worked to secure the family benefits under the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Act and the Indiana Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension and Disability Fund.

Sgt. Brand’s name was included among the names of Monroe County and Bloomington law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty during this year’s local ceremony honoring Peace Officers Memorial Day.

The inclusion of Brand during the local ceremony in May came after the fallen jail officer’s name was added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., in May 2017.

This article was first published by Kokomo Perspective.

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