Domestic violence: Are situations like Taylorville shooting avoidable?

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TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WAND) — “They’re more dangerous. There’s a whole [new] level of danger.”

Teri Ducy has seen some of the worst domestic violence has had to offer — so has Brian Hile.

“He was losing everything and couple that with the meth…it put him in that downward spiral,” he said.

They are two sides of the same effort to curb domestic violence — Ducy as a program coordinator for Dove Inc. and Hile as police chief of Taylorville.

“It’s real,” Ducy said. “It’s not just in the movies.”

Confronting one of those situations got as real as could be for Hile on March 19.

“It [was] a huge adrenaline rush just because of the nature of the business,” he said. “[Especially] when you hear ‘shots fired’ and somebody has been hit.”

43-year-old Lee Kennedy shot three people: his ex-wife, her new boyfriend and his own teenage daughter.

“When the victim leaves, that’s the most dangerous time,” Ducy said. “Domestic violence is all about power and control.”

All three were treated at the hospital and survived. But Kennedy’s day was just getting started.

He cut off his ankle monitor for house arrest in Du Bois before driving to Taylorville for the shooting. Authorities found his truck in Hillsboro, prompting a lockdown at local schools. He then stole a car and made his way back to Stonington, attempting to hold up a convenience store before leading Christian County deputies and U.S. Marshals on a chase.

That chase ended Kennedy’s crime spree just how it began — violently — in Taylorville.

“It was kind of to everybody’s surprise that he ended up back in this area,” Hile said.

Kennedy crashed his vehicle into the curb at Taylorville Memorial Hospital, got out and shot himself in the head.

He died the next day.

“It didn’t end the way we had hoped, but we were able to prevent anything else from further happening,” Hile said.

A tragic ending for sure — but was it an avoidable one?

Kennedy already had a protective order issued against him in February. He was then arrested for violating that protective order less than a month before the shooting.

But Hile says slapping an ankle bracelet on a domestic violence suspect is not a foolproof safety measure.

“It’s not that hard,” Hile said. “They can be cut off. We’ve dealt with individuals who have cut them off before.”

Kennedy — like so many other abusers — was a repeat offender. So why wasn’t he stopped ahead of time.

Again, Hile says that answer isn’t so simple.

“Usually when we get [to a domestic violence call], then [the victim is] like ‘no, everything’s fine,’” Hile said. “We’ve had officers go to take somebody into custody and then the person they were fighting with, whether that be the male or the female, ends up fighting with the officers because they don’t want that person arrested.”

(Note: Hile gave no indication that such an instance occurred in any of Taylorville Police’s run-ins with Kennedy or his family.)

Domestic violence remains a complicated problem with few clear-cut solutions, leaving Hile and others constantly working to get ahead of it.

“In a circumstance like this,” Hile said. “There are a lot of questions that will never be answered.”

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