A man who was believed to be armed with multiple weapons was arrested Tuesday after Bloomington, Indiana, police spent hours searching for him in the sewer system beneath the college town.
The incident forced officials to tell residents to shelter in place and avoid the city’s downtown area during the hourslong standoff after the suspect entered a large storm drain and refused to come out.
It all started around 9:30 a.m. after Bloomington police got calls about a man swinging a steel rod at people. Callers also reported the man being armed with a hatchet and throwing it at people in a nearby park, said Capt. Ryan Pedigo.
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 in the city about 50 miles south of Indianapolis.
Officials made contact with Swartzentruber with a camera, which Swartzentruber later destroyed, that a SWAT team placed into the sewer system, police said. Throughout the standoff, police also used noise-flash devices, Pedigo said.
Around 5:30 p.m. — about 8 hours after the first 911 calls — Swartzentruber was taken into custody 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 the storm drains, according to a Wednesday press 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 felony charges of attempted battery with a deadly weapon and intimidation.
Pedigo said Swartzentruber was also wanted by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in connection to another felony that happened earlier Tuesday. Details on that incident were not immediately available.
Along with those charges, Swartzentruber was wanted in neighboring Daviess County on a felony charge of battery against a public safety official, according to the press 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 exit on the campus’ Dunn Meadow near Franklin Hall, where residents were sheltering in place.
The lengthy underground search left roads throughout downtown Bloomington blocked off, especially near sewer drain exits, Indiana University’s student-run newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, reported.
An investigation is ongoing and Swartzentruber may face additional criminal charges, police said.
Contributing: Associated Press