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Bust breaks up Turtle Creek tailgate

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, September 9, 2003

A large assembly of police officers descended upon Turtle Creek Saturday morning, handing out citations to minors, arresting unruly partiers and shutting down some gatherings.

The 10 a.m. crackdown, motivated by the Indiana State Excise Police, was an attempt to cut down on large parties at Turtle Creek that might spill over into public areas. Officers from the Indiana State Excise Police, South Bend Police Department and the Notre Dame Security Police collaborated in the effort.

Capt. John Williams, community relations officer for the South Bend Police Department, said he did not have final numbers regarding how many people received citations on Saturday, but he said there were at least five arrests.

Mike Russell, a junior in Zahm Hall, witnessed the bust, which he said included 15 to 20 police cars and two to three paddy wagons. Russell said law enforcement officials patrolled the complex, going from apartment to apartment, breaking up some parties and letting others continue. He also said he saw six to seven excise police working undercover.

Eric Tarnowski, also a Zahm Hall junior, said he saw police officers tackling students and even stunning one student with a tazer as they attempted to flee the scene.

“I was in the back alley and everyone was tailgating as usual,” Tarnowski said. “Then, all of a sudden, a bunch of cop cars rolled up. It really kind of killed the atmosphere there.”

Tarnowski said several students – mostly minors – were lined up and handcuffed by police officers.

Police did not bother those over 21 years of age, Tarnowski said. He said he saw tailgaters of legal drinking age taunting the police, who did not react..

Tarnsowski, who has been to Turtle Creek on football weekends in past seasons, added that the apartment complex seemed to have a much more intense party atmosphere this year than in years past.

He said he thinks the new University alcohol policy and tailgating rules have contributed to the bigger off-campus party scene.

“They drove most of the students off [campus] and now [with the bust] they’re trying to drive us back on,” he said.

Turtle Creek residents received a notice Sept. 5 that told them to “expect increased police presence in and around the property” during football season. Williams said Turtle Creek management was not involved in the bust in any manner. However, he said that the property’s management does hire off-duty police officers as security for busy party weekends, like football weekends and “Rally in the Alley.”

Williams lived at Turtle Creek as a security officer for nine years and just moved out a few months ago.

“In nine years, there has never been a bust like that,” he said. He also told of recent developments that may have given Turtle Creek new motivation to enforce a new party policy.

“There were complaints [about Turtle Creek] coming in through the city attorney’s office,” said Williams. “They can get fined if they don’t comply.”

According to Williams, two to three officers used to be considered enough security for Turtle Creek on a busy weekend.

“There were always a lot of kids out there on football weekends,” said Williams, who would hire one or two officers for football weekends and other big events, like “Rally,” when he lived at Turtle Creek.

He also added that part of the motivation for the bust came from the University, but he does not think their actions will cut down on partying before football games.

“There’s always been tailgating at football games, whether it’s college or professional, and there’s always going to be tailgating,” Williams said. “They can only do so much.”

“I understand their position, as far as liability is concerned,” he said. “I think the biggest fear of the universities is someone getting hurt and that bringing on a lawsuit.”