A man believed to be armed with several weapons was arrested Tuesday after Bloomington, Indiana, police spent hours searching for him in the sewer beneath the college town.
The incident prompted officials to tell residents to shelter in place and avoid the downtown area during the hours-long shutdown after the suspect entered a large storm drain and refused to exit.
It all started around 9:30 a.m. after Bloomington police received calls about a man wielding a steel rod at people. Callers also reported the man was armed with an ax and was throwing it at people in a nearby park, Capt. Ryan Pedigo said.
When police responded, they found the man had climbed into a storm drain, Pedigo said. The suspect, Eli Swartzentruber, 37, who police described as a transient, yelled at officers from inside the sewer, threatening to shoot them with a rifle if they entered, police said.
The threat forced officers to wait for backup and additional equipment, Pedigo said. The department said multiple agencies responded to the area to assist the city about 50 miles south of Indianapolis.
Officers contacted Swartzentruber with a camera, which Swartzentruber later destroyed, that a SWAT team placed in the sewer system, police said. Throughout the standoff, police also used stun devices, Pedigo said.
Around 5:30 p.m., about 8 hours after the first 911 calls, Swartzentruber was arrested and removed from the storm drain. Police say he was taken to a local hospital after being “apprehended” by a police dog.
Unfired rifle cartridges, a hand scythe and a machete were found in storm drains, according to a news release from the Bloomington Police Department.
Swartzentruber had an empty gun holster when he was arrested and authorities are still searching the sewers for any firearms.
He was arrested on two counts of attempted assault with a deadly weapon and intimidation.
Pedigo said Swartzentruber was also wanted by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in connection with another crime that happened earlier Tuesday. Details about that incident were not immediately available.
Along with those charges, Swartzentruber was wanted in neighboring Daviess County for felony battery on a public safety officer, according to the news release.
Indiana University sent out an alert Tuesday afternoon, saying a person was seen entering a storm drain near downtown. The alert said campus police were monitoring a sewer outlet in Dunn Meadow on campus, near Franklin Hall, where residents were sheltering in place.
The lengthy underground search blocked roads in downtown Bloomington, especially near sewer outlets, Indiana University’s student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, reported.
An investigation is ongoing and Swartzentruber could face additional criminal charges, police said.
Contributor: Associated Press