Police Chief Jose’ Miller has issued a statement in response to some community members’ concerns over a police call that happened Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. Had this been a call resulting in an arrest or investigation, these details would not be available for immediate release in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.
According to the Elkhart County dispatch center, a 911 call was made Friday at 9:23 a.m. at Ultra Clean Laundry, 430 W. Pike St., with reports of a Black man in his 40s with dreadlocks wearing a blue jacket, plaid shorts and a backpack holding a possible fake knife to another customer’s throat and threatening to kill him. It was reported this same individual was outside yelling about “killing all white people.”
Because of the severity of what was reported in the call, several officers in the area were dispatched to the laundromat. Upon arrival, the responding officers were told the man had left toward Rogers Park on a bike with another Black man. Officers were informed the subject held the fake knife to his own throat and pointed to a patron in the business.
Within minutes of canvassing the area, officers found a man who matched the description made to dispatch, including that the man was in his 40s, with dreadlocks and wearing a blue jacket, plaid shorts and a backpack. The man was riding a bicycle on 3rd Street, across from Lake City Bank.
Police officers spoke with the man, who denied being at the site reported. After an interaction of less than five minutes, the man left the scene.
A concerned resident, having witnessed the interaction between the police officers and the man, made a post on Facebook with critical comments about how officers handled the call.
Chief Miller, the Assistant Chief and the Patrol Chief have read the report from dispatch and viewed video caught on the officers’ vest cameras, finding no indication of an inappropriate response. Though these concerns are usually handled by the police department’s administration, Mayor Stutsman reviewed the report and video as well.
Chief Miller had the following statement:
“I understand there are heightened emotions toward law enforcement, now as much as ever. This does not negate the fact that police must still perform their duties. The officers investigated this incident not only for the safety of the community, but also for the safety of the individual himself. My hope is communities resist the temptation to cast judgement until the facts or circumstances of a particular situation are known.”
In addition to the concern for how the officers responded to the call, several comments were made criticizing officers for not wearing masks. Chief Miller addressed those concerns also:
“The officer that responded to the business wore his mask when speaking with the witness. Officers maintained social distancing while dealing with the individual along the street. After reviewing the videos, no violations of Indiana Governor Holcomb’s Executive Order, the order from the Elkhart County Health Department, Mayor Stutsman’s Executive Order, and the order issued by myself, were observed.”