BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (TCD) -- A 37-year-old man engaged in an hourslong standoff with police and SWAT officials after he allegedly threw a hatchet, then fled into a storm drain.
According to the Bloomington Police Department, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 9:30 a.m., officers went to Seminary Park after receiving a call about a man "swinging a steel rod at several individuals." When they arrived at the park, officers learned the suspect, later identified as Eli Swartzentruber, allegedly went to a car in a nearby Kroger parking lot and picked up a hatchet. He then allegedly returned to Seminary Park with the weapon, walked toward the group of people, and threw the hatchet.
He reportedly fled the area on foot.
Bloomington Police officers canvassed the area and reportedly found clothing hanging off a railing "near a very large storm drain" on First Street, and the clothes reportedly matched Swartzentruber’s description. Police reportedly yelled into the storm drain for him to come out, but Swartzentruber "advised them not to enter the storm drain and that he was armed with rifle."
He allegedly threatened to kill the officers if they tried going in.
The responding officers called for backup and "took a position of cover" until other officers could make it to the scene.
Bloomington Police Department’s Critical Incident Response Team and an Indiana State Police SWAT Team went to the scene and received diagrams of the storm drain system from city officials. Police said they "used equipment designed to inspect the storm sewer in an effort to locate the suspect but failed to do so" in one section of the sewer.
Investigators began removing manhole covers and eventually located an unfired rifle cartridge that looked like it had been dropped. The Critical Incident Response Team detonated noise-flash diversionary devices inside the sewer in an attempt to find Swartzentruber.
The SWAT team reportedly used a camera to search the sewer and located him about 500 feet inside. Swartzentruber allegedly told officials he would exit to the north, but then reportedly fled southbound. An Indiana State Police senior trooper reportedly deployed his K9, Loki, and the dog caught Swartzentruber.
Swartzentruber was taken out of the sewer and transported to Indiana University Hospital for treatment. He reportedly had an empty handgun on him when he was arrested.
As investigators searched the sewer, they reportedly found several unfired rifle cartridges, a machete, and a hand scythe. After leaving the hospital, Swartzentruber was transported to Monroe County Jail and booked on charges of attempted battery with a deadly weapon and intimidation.
According to WXIN-TV, the standoff between Swartzentruber and law enforcement officials lasted about nine hours.
Swartzentruber also faces additional charges due to allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman. According to the probable cause affidavit cited by WXIN, about three hours before he allegedly threw the hatchet, Swartzentruber reportedly went to a woman’s residence on West Koontz Road and asked her to "live underground" with him. She reportedly rejected his offer, but then Swartzentruber pulled out a machete and left, telling her he’d be back soon.
He returned minutes later and allegedly asked if she was ready to go. He even allegedly started packing some of her belongings for her. He reportedly told her he stole a truck and needed to return it by sunrise.
When she told him she didn’t want to go to jail, he allegedly responded, "I’ll bail you out, break you out. And the police will have to take me down dead before they take me because I got this," with "this" purportedly referring to the machete in his hand.
Swartzentruber then reportedly grabbed the woman’s neck, tried to kiss her, took his pants off, and put money down her shirt. She reportedly pretended she had to use the bathroom, so she ran outside and fled. The woman allegedly grabbed his pants as she fled, then spoke to police about what happened.
Court records show he has been charged with sexual battery, residential entry breaking and entering, and battery resulting in bodily injury.