A violent arrest in Elkhart last Thursday has landed an officer in the hospital and created tension between the neighborhood and law enforcement.
On Thursday, July 3, Reese Tommy Haithcox, 21, was arrested after beating up and hospitalizing Cpl. Dustin Young of the Elkhart Police Dept. in the 100 block of West Garfield Ave.
Haithcox radioed for backup and the area was inundated with police officers.
According to the Probable Cause Affidavit filed in Superior Court 5, at around 9:30 p.m. Cpl. Young saw Haithcox “obstructing traffic” and announced over the loud speaker for Haithcox to move. Haithcox reportedly yelled an expletive in response, prompting Cpl. Young to get out of his squad car and ask for identification.
Neighbors said Haithcox was simply crossing the street to talk to a woman seated in a car.
“I am from Chicago,” said Haithcox. Court documents allege Haithcox got in Young’s face when the officer continued to question him and the two began to scuffle.
“Cpl. Young grabbed the male by the arm and the male physically resisted and pushed Cpl. Young the the ground. The male got on top of Cpl. Young and began throwing punches and striking him in the face at least 15 times fracturing his left orbital socket,” documents also allege Haithcox attempted to disarm the officer.
A second Elkhart police officer responded to the fight and chased Haithcox on foot and tased him two times in order to handcuff him. Witnesses disagree with documents and claim Haithcox was tased repeatedly as multiple responding officers escorted him to the police car.
Haithcox was booked at the Elkhart County Jail on preliminary charges of aggravated battery, disarming a law enforcement officer, three counts of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. He faces two misdemeanor charges of fleeing police and obstructing traffic.
Adrianna Wilson witnessed the arrest and said she yelled at police to stop tasing Haithcox.
“They chased the boy, tased the boy, was on the boy’s back as they handcuffed him,” Wilson explained. She described the situation as “hostile” when police arrived. Cell phone video obtained by NewsCenter 16’s reporting partners at the Elkhart Truth shows officers cursing and yelling at bystanders to back up.
“There’s a way to talk to people, you talk to people the way you want to be talk to” said Ann, a resident of Garfield Ave.
“I turned back around and he had Officer Yong on the ground, he was trying to get away from Officer Young,” Ann added. While Ann recognized that Haithcox shouldn’t have assaulted the officer, she said the officer was guilty of provoking the incident.
An investigation into the incident has been launched internally by the police department. Lt. Mike Sigsbee said in a written statement: “We train and expect our officers to act in a professional manner at all times. All instances of inappropriate conduct are reviewed and investigated by the Elkhart Police Department. The events involved with the disturbance on Garfield on July 4th, 2014 are being reviewed within the department at this time.”
Several residents claim police have since increased the patrols along Garfield Ave. after the fight and have harassed neighbors with excessive citations for minor infractions.
The Elkhart Police Department reviewed its citations for “minor” infractions for the month of July and said the area around Garfield Ave. accounts for only a small portion of the citations. Lt. Mike Sigsbee said 70 minor citations have been issued in the city, only 3 of which were issued in the Garfield Ave. area: one for failure to use a sidewalk, one for riding a bicycle without a bell and a third for failing to cross the street at a marked intersection.
City police have issued a number of warnings for the aforementioned infractions, none of which happened in the area of the fight.
But neighbors contend that they’re being targeted.
“It’s the summer they don’t want us to do nothing,” said Wilson, “Y’all can’t just stop us because an incident occurred, worse stuff happened than this did.”