Indiana Cops are Charged with Federal Civil Rights Violations for Beating a Handcuffed Man
The Elkhart Police Department has had several misconduct issues throughout the years.
In January 2018, a then 29-year-old Mario Guerrero Ledesma was taken into police custody in Elkhart, Indiana. During booking, Ledesma was placed into a chair and handcuffed. He then spat in the direction of Cory Newland and Joshua Titus, two officers with the Elkhart Police Department. Newland and Titus, both in their 30s, proceeded to repeatedly punch Ledesma while he was still handcuffed.
On Friday, the Department of Justice announced via a press release that Newland and Titus were being charged for the excessive force they used against Ledesma while he was handcuffed and in their care. Both men face a single count of deprivation of rights under color of law.
"Maintaining integrity in the criminal justice system by investigating and prosecuting police officers who step out of bounds with the law, while working with, training and promoting good relationships with law enforcement who operate within the law are important functions of my Office," said U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch in the press release.
The South Bend Tribune and ProPublica obtained a video of the incident with a FOIA request.
Elkhart cops have a long history of abuse and misconduct. Newland himself had been involved in several questionable incidents prior to the beating. In one 2011 incident, Newland received a three-day suspension after attempting to contact a woman whom he arrested for having sex with her boyfriend in her car while at the park. He sent her a Facebook friend request and several text messages to see if she wanted to "hang out."
Police Chief Ed Windbigler was suspended and eventually resigned last winter following the beating. His suspension was based in part on his failure to report the incident in a timely manner and an understating of the events that transpired. Windbigler's tenure was also marred by poor tracking of officer misconduct and a poor record of disciplinary action. Several supervisors were promoted under Windbigler despite the Police Merit Commission not being made aware of their disciplinary records, as is protocol.
The State Police previously declined a request from the mayor to review both the beating and the Elkhart Police Department. Instead, they recommended that the mayor get the DOJ involved.