Elkhart, IN — Deeply disturbing video was released recently of several Elkhart police department officers conducting what looks like a torture scene from a Hollywood movie. Sadly, however, this was non-fiction and the handcuffed victim receiving the beat down of his life was not an actor.
The release of the video prompted a response from the Elkhart mayor this week, who noted that "in hindsight" his police chief should've handed down a more severe punishment for the officers involved, instead of simply reprimanding them. Now, the two cops who are seen on video torturing the handcuffed man by repeatedly punching him in the face are facing criminal charges.
After claiming chief Ed Windbigler should have done more than simply writing the two officers up, Mayor Tim Neese then came to the chief's defense for describing the situation as his two officers "going a little overboard." At the time of the incident, the chief said nothing of the punches and told the police oversight board that no one suffered injuries—in spite of the video showing the man being loaded onto a stretcher after being repeatedly punched in the face.
“I think probably Chief Windbigler was not attempting to mislead anyone,” Neese said.
The mayor has every reason to defend the chief as his son was also in the room that night and did nothing to stop officers Cory Newland and Joshua Titus from pummeling the defenseless man.
As ProPublica points out, asked about the actions of those officers, including his son, Tim Neese said, “Some officers could have done more, and some officers probably could have done less.”
Although the video shows the handcuffed man bleeding from his head after the beating, Tim Neese said he was not convinced the injuries resulted from the officers’ punches. The mayor said the man was injured during a domestic disturbance before his arrest, according to ProPublica.
One would have to be completely oblivious not to realize that the victim, Mario Guerrero Ledesma, was severely injured from the punches. Yet still, the mayor and the chief attempted to claim the injuries happened beforehand.
“I don’t have reason to believe that he had injuries that occurred at the Elkhart Police Department,” Neese said.
As ProPublica notes, when asked by a Tribune reporter if the punches themselves could be considered injurious, Neese said, “I suppose that’s a subjective call.”
Although the mayor said there was no cover up by the department and himself, charges were never filed against the abusive pair of cops until the the South Bend Tribune received a copy of the video.
As the video shows, Sgt. Drew Neese—the mayor's son—and Cpl Jason Ray, who is president of the police union, were in the room and did nothing to physically stop Newland and Titus from smashing in the face of their handcuffed victim.
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Ledesma was in jail over suspicion of battery and according to the video, the officers appeared to have premeditated his beat down.
“Hey, you gonna chill out?” Newland asks as they move Ledesma from the squad car into the station. “No, you’re not gonna chill out? Well, we re gonna have some fun, then, huh?"
Inside the booking area, Ledesma spit on the ground which then set off a chain of events leading to beating of the handcuffed man.
“Don’t spit. I’m telling you, that’s the last time I m gonna ask you,” Newland says. “I asked you in the car; I m gonna ask you here, OK? Do not spit."
Ledesma mumbles something and then spits on the ground again at which point he is thrown to the floor while still handcuffed, as Newland and Titus punch him in the face at least ten times.
Ledesma is then left on the floor in a pool of his own blood for six minutes.
While the mayor's son did nothing to stop the officers, Cpl Ray tried to quell the abuse by telling the officers to "stop."
Had the video never been obtained by the Tribune, these two officers would have simply gotten off with a written reprimand from Windbigler, which read in part:
“I completely understand defending yourself during an altercation. However, striking a handcuffed subject in the face is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We cannot let our emotions direct our reactions or over-reactions to situations such as this."
Both officers now face charges of criminal battery, a class A misdemeanor. They are both on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case.
Below is a video highlighting the ability of police and city officials to cover up even the most torturous behavior of their officers. Had the Tribune never asked for the video of this incident, rest assured that no one would know about it and these two cops would still be employed. Indeed, as TFTP has reported time and again, there is a high probability that the officers will beat these charges and face no punishment.