He's accused of telling a little white lie about a big purple honor.
Shane Steven Ladner, of Canton, says he is a Purple Heart recipient after being wounded in December 1989, when he was a 17-year-old soldier in the U.S. Army. But the Army, which does have a record of his service, has no record of Ladner's Purple Heart, the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.
Ladner, 40, a former Holly Springs police officer, is facing criminal charges that he lied about the medal following a six-week investigation into his military records. But Ladner's attorney, based in Texas, contends the veteran does have a Purple Heart.
Questions were raised about the medal after Ladner and his wife were injured during a veterans parade accident in Texas. A float they were riding was struck by a train and his wife later lost her leg.
"They did a lot of research and there was no evidence whatsoever to indicate he has ever been awarded a Purple Heart. Period," Lt. Jay Baker with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office said.
Ladner was arrested shortly after noon Wednesday and was charged with four counts of theft by deception, one count of false swearing and one count of false statement to a police officer, Baker said. Shortly before 5 p.m., Ladner was released from jail after posting $23,100 bond.
"All along, our investigation has shown that, in fact, Shane did receive a Purple Heart for injuries received in service to his country," Ladner's attorney, John Cook, said in an emailed statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "When all of the information finally comes to light, plenty of people will owe Shane an apology."
The Purple Heart, established by George Washington, is a military decoration awarded only to those killed or wounded in battle.
Ladner allegedly claimed for several years that he was a Purple Heart recipient. He used the honor to obtain a free license plate for several years, Baker said. In November, Ladner and his wife were participating in a parade for veterans in Midland, Texas, when they were among 16 injured in a train wreck that killed four.
After Ladner's wife lost her leg, the Canton and Holly Springs communities rallied to help the family in the weeks following her injury.
The theft by deception charges stem from Ladner receiving free Purple Heart license plates in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Baker said.
"When he originally applied for the license plate in 2009, he was required to swear that he was a Purple Heart recipient, hence the false swearing charge," Baker said in an emailed statement. "The false statement charge is from lying to detectives during an interview."
Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace requested the investigation into Ladner's claims and the Army assisted with the investigation.
"The United States Army has no record of the 2004 DD214 that Ladner presented to obtain his Purple Heart Georgia license plate," Baker said.
A DD214 is the document issued when a service members retires or is discharged from active duty.
Ladner allegedly told organizers of the Texas event that he had been awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the invasion of Panama in 1989, when he would have been 17. An attorney for Ladner told the AJC in April that Ladner was told by the Army to lie about where his injuries were sustained, due to the sensitive nature of the operation.
Ladner was unable to return to work because of injuries sustained in the train wreck and was replaced effective April 5, Holly Springs Police Chief Ken Ball previously said. Ball did not return a message left Wednesday.
There are 1,063 Purple Heart recipients who are members of the Department of Georgia Military Order of the Purple Heart, the group's adjutant, Robert Nelson, said Wednesday. Ladner is not listed as a member of the group, but many Purple Heart recipients in the state are not involved with the group due to personal reasons, Nelson said.
Those who wish to join the state chapter must fill out an application that is submitted, along with military paperwork, to national headquarters for verification, said Nelson, himself a Purple Heart recipient who was wounded in Vietnam.
"Chances are if the authorities are saying he doesn't have a Purple Heart, he doesn't have one," Nelson said. "If he's claiming he has a Purple Heart and he does not have one, we want it come out."