Indiana Daily Student

UPDATE: Man identified, charged after hours long underground barricade

<p>An Indiana University Police Department vehicle blocks access to East Sixth Street on Tuesday across from Franklin Hall.</p>

An Indiana University Police Department vehicle blocks access to East Sixth Street on Tuesday across from Franklin Hall.

The man, who claimed to be armed and barricaded himself for over seven hours in a storm drain, was taken into police custody around 5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon after causing a large-scale police operation and a partial IU campus lockdown.

Police identified the suspect as 37-year-old Eli Swartzentruber. He was considered an "armed subject" but not an active shooter. No shots were reported. 

Police say they found unspent rifle rounds, a hand scythe and a machete in the storm drains.  No guns were located, and police are no longer searching the drains for weapons.

An IU police car is parked near the sewer drain across from Franklin Hall just after 1 p.m. on Sept. 20. IUPD is responding to an armed suspect reportedly hiding in the sewer system. Olivia Bianco

After a hospital visit, Swartzentruber was booked into the Monroe County Correctional Center with preliminary felony charges of attempted battery with a deadly weapon and intimidation.

Bloomington Police Department Capt. Ryan Pedigo said Tuesday that the Monroe County Sheriff's Office previously found probable cause for the Swartzentruber's arrest for four felony counts stemming from an event he was involved in Tuesday morning.

Additionally, Swartzentruber was wanted for a warrant in Daviess County for a felony charge of battery against a public safety official.

In a BPD news release, Pedigo said there may be additional charges since it is an active case. Other involved agencies may also criminally charge him.

Timeline of events

BPD was called to Seminary Square Park around 9:30 a.m. due to a report of a man, Swartzentruber, attempting to hit people with a 3-foot pry bar, Pedigo said. 

Police later said Swartzentruber is a man experiencing homelessness.

Upon arrival, he ran away and went to a vehicle in the adjacent Kroger parking lot to retrieve what police think was either a small hatchet or axe. Police said he returned and started to throw it at people in the park.

Swartzentruber was then seen heading southbound toward First Street, and officers could not find him in the area. However, clothes matching what people said he was last seen wearing were found near a large storm drain. He entered the storm drain through what Pedigo said was a very large entry into the ground.

Local police and other city workers gather near a manhole near West Second Street and South College Avenue around 3 p.m. Tuesday. They are responding to an ongoing situation involving an armed suspect hiding within the Bloomington sewer system. Nicolas Napier

When officers yelled down into the drain, Swartzentruber advised officers not to come into the tunnel and said he was armed with a rifle around 9:40 a.m. Pedigo said the man told officers he would shoot them if they made an entry.

From that point on, officers took cover and called in back-up and the Critical Incident Response Team, according to the release.

Multiple local police departments responded with Bloomington Police Department operating as the point department working on the situation. Due to the large area Swartzentruber could travel, the Indiana State Police SWAT team was called in to assist with the search. Other local agencies, such as the Bloomington Fire Department and city utilities, were also on the scene to assist.

Police began searching the tunnel for Swartzentruber using the City of Bloomington Utilities department's small robots that are typically used to inspect the storm drain. Utilities also provided diagrams of the underground storm system to determine what tunnels the man could fit in.

"I have to admit in my almost 20-year career, I've never been inside of a storm sewer checking for someone," Pedigo said Tuesday. "It's certainly pretty unique."

Police were worried for the safety of those near Dunn Meadow and Franklin Hall since an exit to the storm drain was near Sixth Street and Indiana Avenue. Officers were stationed there to ensure Swartzentruber did not flee out of that end of the drain.

IU students, staff and faculty were first alerted via IU-Notify around 12:20 p.m. Just after, police started putting up caution tape around the intersection of Kirkwood and Indiana Avenue, as well as around Sample Gates and Dunn Meadow to block foot and vehicle traffic.

Bloomington Police Department officer Chris Bridge removes caution tape from pathways at about 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2022, between Franklin Hall and Dunn Meadow after an incident regarding an armed man barricaded in a sewer drain. The area was cleared shortly after the man was taken into custody. Alayna Wilkening

Police searched for the man in the underground system for most of the day. Pedigo said Wednesday that Swartzentruber was in the storm drain for seven hours. 

The drain stretched under a large portion  of downtown, meaning police were looking for Swartzentruber along Walnut Street near Seminary Park, as well on Kirkwood Avenue by Franklin Hall. 

Local police were seen blocking off the intersection at West Second Street and South College Avenue around 3 p.m. Police were guarding the sewer entrance right next to the Big Red Liquors and preventing cars from driving nearby.

At 3:20 p.m., multiple loud noises were heard coming from the sewer entrances, and steam was seen rising from the sewer grates along East Second Street and South Walnut Street. Police warned on Twitter that people in the area south of Third Street, near First Street and Walnut Street, may hear such noises.

The loud bangs stem from noise diversion devices, Pedigo said. The tool was employed in an attempt to get Swartzentruber to leave the underground storm drain.

The reportedly armed suspect, seated in the center, exited the sewer around 5 p.m. Tuesday after barricading himself there for over four hours. Partially clothed, he was escorted to an ambulance where police patted him down. Nicolas Napier

Police were seen attempting to speak with him around 3:30 p.m. by using a megaphone and asking him to come out with his hands up.

Swartzentruber eventually told police through a camera they sent into the drain that he would come out, the release said. However, when he destroyed the camera and turned to run back in, senior ISP Trooper Richard Klun deployed his K9 partner Loki to take him down. 

He finally emerged out the Sixth Street and Indiana Avenue drain exit around 5 p.m. partially clothed and surrounded by officers. Police patted him down before he was strapped onto a stretcher and taken for treatment for a K9 unit dog bite to IU Health Bloomington via ambulance.

Police said he had an empty handgun holster, but no guns were found on him or in the drain. However, a hand scythe, a machete and several unfired .30-06 rifle cartridges were located in the drain.

The police investigation is ongoing.

Around Bloomington and IU

The Monroe County Community School Corporation was aware of the situation and monitoring it. The spokesperson said schools in the area were on alert. The Project School was on lockdown earlier this day, according to multiple sources.

An IU Police Department officer stands in Dunn Meadow just after 1 p.m. Tuesday in response to reports of an armed suspect on campus. No shots have been fired as of 2:30 p.m. Olivia Bianco

Around 1:45 p.m., a BPD spokesperson said everyone in Franklin Hall was being evacuated out of the building only through the southeast door. All remaining Tuesday classes in Franklin Hall were canceled per an email sent to students just after 2 p.m. This did not affect classes in other campus buildings.

The campus bus system avoided stopping at Sample Gates, the Indiana Memorial Union and the Collins LLC for the remainder of the day.

Several businesses near Indiana and Kirkwood Avenue were unaffected by the situation, including Goodfellas Pizzeria, Qdoba Mexican Eats and The Indiana Shop. They were open and serving customers. However, Bapu Fresh and Potbelly were closed for the rest of the day due to the situation.

Where people were asked to avoid

People were asked to avoid the area from First to Third Street and Morton to Lincoln Street and the area around Franklin Hall and Dunn Meadow.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article misspelled Eli Swartzentruber's last name due to a spelling error in the Monroe County Correctional Center arrest summary.

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