The Bloomingtonian

Switchyard camp residents attempted “citizen’s arrest” of man who drove car through camp in early August; Driver tried to hit campers with stolen vehicle

Two residents of a homeless camp attempted to make a citizen’s arrest of a man for “attempted murder” earlier in August, according to Bloomington Police Department Capt. Ryan Pedigo. The men, who were reported by a motorist to be carrying bats while pursuing a man told police he had driven a vehicle through their camp near Switchyard Park the previous night. The vehicle was stolen.

The stolen vehicle was later found close to where it had been taken, but the auto theft suspect was not located with it.

Police were dispatched to the area near Washington and Dixie around 11:50 a.m. on August 7, 2021. The caller told police they’d witnessed the two men beating another man.

Two men were soon located, and they told police they had attempted to make a citizen’s arrest of a man for attempted murder when they recognized him the next day as the suspect who had driven a vehicle through their camp while attempting to run people over. Nobody was hurt by the driver.

Police later found the man, who had fled the scene of the “citizen’s arrest” tried to get into a passing vehicle. Officers detained him on an outstanding warrant from Orange County, Indiana. A member of the Bloomington Police later recognized (in police bodycam footage) the man from a prominent tattoo as the suspect in vehicle theft. The 42-year-old man, who is also unhoused, was charged with vehicle theft and possession of a stolen vehicle.

After the suspect was chased by the camp residents and beaten with a metal bat, he had a deep bruise on the right side of his chin, according to Pedigo. But he would not provide officers with the identities of the men who beat him and did not wish to press charges.

Police located several stolen items from several other theft cases in the stolen white Honda they recovered and questioned a passenger of the vehicle. The passenger told police he didn’t know the driver of the vehicle who said had picked him up and given him a ride.

Switchyard Park homeless camp resident Josh Riddle described the incident that led to the “citizen’s arrest.”

“Two weeks ago, we had somebody drive through here trying to run us over. This is a bad situation, if I hadn’t been standing where I was, my wife wouldn’t be here right now, and neither would my friend who gave us this little lean-to. I don’t know much about the details as to what led to it, but the dude was on one. He was threatening us and harassing us all night. And then out of nowhere, he drove through and ran over 16 different bikes, almost ran over three dogs, missed countless people just by a hair. I tried jumping through the passenger side window to make him drive into the bridge, and he hit our friend Joe … which he just kind of spun off the side of the passenger side of the vehicle. He ended up getting arrested the next night.”

Riddle told The Bloomingtonian nobody at the camp called the police the night of the incident, but some campers decided to place the suspect under citizen’s arrest upon seeing him the next day.

Riddle said it’s hard enough surviving with no permanent residence, but when people do things like try to run people over with a vehicle, it just makes survival more difficult. Riddle was camping in the woods near Clear Creek with his wife in June when they woke up floating on 2 feet of floodwater. Riddle said he went to the hospital with hypothermia and felt safer at the Switchyard camp.

The City of Bloomington has given residents of the camp until Friday to move.

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