Former Lincolnton Police Department detective Brent Heavner was dismissed last month due to “misconduct” that could jeopardize the convictions of multiple child predators.
“A pre-disciplinary conference was held with you in the human resource conference room on Wednesday, October 18, 2017,” Lincolnton Chief of Police Rodney Jordan said in the termination letter issued to Heavner on Oct. 20. “You were informed that termination of employment was being recommended due to misconduct issues relating to policy violations under the Lincolnton Police Department’s Policy and Procedures Manual 200-02 Code of Conduct. After carefully evaluating the information we discussed during the conference, I have made a final decision to move forward with the termination effective immediately.”
The Lincolnton Police Department conducted an internal investigation into suspicions that Heavner was disclosing information to others outside of the department that should not have been released, according to documents filed by the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office that were obtained by Charlotte television station WSOC.
Those documents, which have since been sealed at the request of Heavner’s attorney, allegedly say that the former detective denied those allegations when confronted. However, the department claims to have recordings of conversations on Heavner’s work phone where he can be heard disclosing that confidential information.
Jordan declined further comment on the circumstances surrounding Heavner’s dismissal, citing personnel policy.
Since 2015, Heavner has spearheaded an undercover sting operation that has netted more than 50 online child predators. He would pose as a child on social media and arrange to meet the suspects for sex, arresting them upon arrival.
“At some point, definitely,” Jordan said when asked if the sting operation would continue. “It will just take a little time to make sure that the person we use is well-trained in that area. We do hope to keep it more localized and try to get other surrounding agencies on board if it’s in their jurisdiction.”
In February, Heavner was sworn in as a task force officer for the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force, allowing him jurisdiction throughout the United States regarding crimes against children. It’s unclear at this time if Heavner remains a member of that task force.
Lincoln County District Attorney Mike Miller is now investigating the circumstances surrounding Heavner’s dismissal to assess his credibility as a witness of the state. Miller is required by law to disclose any legitimate questions about Heavner’s credibility to defense attorneys trying cases worked by the former detective, or he can choose to simply not prosecute any case in which Heavner is involved.
“My intent is to try these cases, if at all possible,” Miller said. “We don’t know whether there’s an issue at this point or not so we’re trying to look into that. These are very serious cases and we’re going to do everything we can to bring them in front of a jury. I can’t say that (dismissal) isn’t a possibility, but my intent is — worst-case scenario if there were an issue that would rise to that level — to turn over whatever negative information there is to defense council and then hopefully proceed to trial.”
Of the more than 50 accused child predators arrested by Heavner in recent years, many have already been convicted and listed on North Carolina’s sex offender registry. Those individuals could appeal their convictions and possibly be removed from the registry if Heavner’s credibility is tarnished. There are currently nine pending cases, including three that were continued on Monday due to the allegations against the former detective, in which Heavner is listed as a witness, according to media reports.
Heavner appeared in a Cleveland County court on Wednesday for a hearing in which prosecutors with the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office planned to request recordings from Heavner’s personnel file that could determine whether he lied during the department’s internal investigation. Heavner’s attorney, Michael Elliot, requested a continuance, which was granted by the judge. A date for the hearing has not been scheduled at this time.
“We believe that the records will show that (Heavner) was terminated by the Lincolnton Police Department against state and federal law,” Elliot told the Shelby Star after Wednesday’s hearing in Cleveland County. “That he was fired for doing the job he was sworn to do. That is an issue for another day, but that is what we believe it will show.”
Lincolnton Police Department Lt. Jason Munday, a candidate for the 2018 election of a new Lincoln County sheriff, has tabbed Heavner as his chief deputy, if elected. Munday told the Times-News that his plans haven’t changed despite Heavner’s dismissal.
“Nothing has changed,” Munday said. “I’m 100 percent behind Mr. Heavner and I feel that all of the truth will come out and, once it does, the people will understand and see that he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Heavner did not respond to a request for comment prior to our publication deadline.