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Turtle Creek bust raises questions

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The Sept. 6 alcohol bust at the Turtle Creek apartment complex has raised concerns about the aggressive manner with which law enforcement officials apprehended student offenders at the scene.

A team of Indiana State Excise Police, South Bend Police Department and Notre Dame Security Police raided several tailgate parties prior to Notre Dame’s first home football game of the 2003 season. Student witnesses at Turtle Creek alleged that officers tackled several students and even stunned one with a tazer as they attempted to flee the scene.

The crackdown resulted in five arrests, and 26 people were charged with offenses such as minor in consumption, inducing a minor to possess alcoholic beverages and resisting arrest.

Captain Jim Hassig of the South Bend Police Department participated in the Sept. 6 operation and said he is positive that it was not unnecessarily rough.

“A couple people got tackled because they were fleeing,” said Hassig. “They were told to stay put by police as we entered an apartment, and they fled out the door. There were about 20 other people in that apartment, but they stayed in the apartment and there were no problems. They would not have been tackled had they not fled.”

Zahm Hall junior Eric Tarnowski, who was in Turtle Creek for the bust, said he saw tailgaters being tackled as they attempted to run away.

“I saw at least one person get tackled, and more people who looked like they were about to be tackled,” Tarnowski said. “But it wasn’t like the cops came through and just started tackling people.”

Hassig said four individuals were tackled at the bust, all of them by Excise Police, and no injuries resulted from those tackles.

According to Rex Rakow of the Notre Dame Security Police, a police officer has the right to tackle an individual when he or she is fleeing or resisting arrest.

Hassig also said that no one at the scene was tazed. He said only the South Bend police officers brought tazers to the scene and none of the officers removed those tazers from their holsters during the operation.

Mike Russell, a Zahm Hall junior, said he saw the officers using tazers at the bust.

“I saw a [police officer] with a foot-long rod; he was chasing a guy and holding out a stick towards him,” Russell said. “I’ve seen a stun-stick before, and that’s what it looked like to me.”

The crackdown, motivated by the Indiana State Excise Police and organized in conjunction with the South Bend city attorney’s office and the South Bend Police Department, was an attempt to cut down on large parties at Turtle Creek that might spill over into public areas.