Investigators say a former McCracken County deputy sheriff shot himself

Investigators say a former McCracken County deputy sheriff shot himself
By: Erica Byfield

PADUCAH, Ky. - His fellow officers believed Benny Harding's story back then, but now it's a tale they are not buying. According to Sheriff John Hayden, Benny Harding's story just didn't add up and after months of conducting an internal investigation he fired Harding Wednesday afternoon.

"Our findings were that Deputy Harding was not truthful with investigators and that the gun shot wound was self inflicted" said Hayden.

Sheriff John Hayden talked to me about the Harding case only after KFVS filed an "Open Records Request" he opened up about the difficulty of investigating one of his own. "Were not happy about what happened and we're going to have to work to gain back the support of the community" said Hayden.

The biggest surprise, Benny Harding shot himself in the shoulder. Sheriff Hayden would not tell me why Harding would hurt himself or why he lied about it.

But, here's what I found when I took a closer look at Harding's situation.  The 53 year old former deputy is divorced, documents show his wages are garnished nearly 400 dollars a month in order to pay child support.  
Benny Harding has an agreement with his ex-wife to share the medical costs related to their two children but according a letter, he's behind on more than one medical bill. 
In it his ex wife says quote "Benny, the kids can't go back to see their dentist until this is paid in full.  I would appreciate you at least trying to pay on this."
Since the October 2006 shooting, Harding's been on disability, a form of semi-retirement.
According to Kentucky retirement statutes if an officer fully retires on disability he or she will receive more money each month.
We may never know why this veteran officer took such a drastic step....but Sheriff Hayden says Harding's decision put his fellow officers and the public in jeopardy "I want to apologize for Benny Harding and we do not condone his actions in anyway."
We should learn if Benny Harding will face criminal charges Friday (2/9/07) afternoon, when Kentucky State Police investigators take his case before a grand jury.