ELKHART, Ind. – A northern Indiana police officer has been demoted and suspended without pay after an investigation found that he and his wife, also an officer, gained access to the financial assets of a man his wife first met through official police business.
Elkhart police Chief Kris Seymore had originally recommended that officers Nathan Lanzen and Taryn Lanzen be terminated for undermining the public’s trust in the Elkhart Police Department.
But the Elkhart Police Merit Commission voted 4-1 on Monday to approve an agreement under which Nathan Lanzen admitted to conduct unbecoming of an officer and will be demoted from sergeant to corporal. He will also be suspended for 30 days without pay for maintaining an inappropriate relationship.
Last week, the merit board found that Taryn Lanzen had violated department policies and suspended her for 60 days without pay. She was also placed on probationary status for six months upon her return.
An investigation by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department found that the couple began a relationship with a 58-year-old man in June 2020 after Taryn Lanzen was called to the man's home after she had driven over his lawn.
That probe found that less than three months later, the couple had access to the man’s banking and retirement accounts, and Taryn Lanzen had been named his power of attorney, his healthcare representative and the beneficiary on his will and 401(k) plan.
Taryn Lanzen also wrote a $32,000 check from the man’s account to buy a replica Shelby Cobra sports car, the investigation found. That money is now subject to a lawsuit and a countersuit filed by the man and Taryn Lanzen.
In addition, the couple transferred the deed of the man’s house to a house-flipping company they own, and in doing so, Nathan Lanzen signed as a witness even though he had not witnessed his wife and the man signing the deed.
Elizabeth Bemis, an attorney representing both officers, said they had no comment on the allegations or disciplinary action but “look forward to moving forward upon their return to work and are committed to serving their department and the citizens of Elkhart.”
The Rev. Jean Mayes, the merit board member who voted against the agreement involving Nathan Lanzen, said Monday that “our department should be held to a higher standard than I’ve seen.”
“I’m just really, really not feeling comfortable with the decision that the board has made, mainly because of confidence in the community for our officers," she said. “This for me was a gross misconduct."