37-year-old man arrested after storm sewer standoff Tuesday

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 20: Members of the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) wait for a man who barricaded himself inside the Bloomington storm sewer system on September 20, 2022 in Bloomington, Indiana. Police from several different agencies worked from late morning until late afternoon to catch the man who entered the Bloomington storm sewer system near 1st Street and Walnut Tuesday morning. Police believed the man was armed with a gun. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

A 37-year-old man was arrested Tuesday afternoon at East 6th Street and North Indiana Avenue after he barricaded himself in the storm sewer system, according to the Bloomington Police Department.

The suspect identified as Eli Swartzentruber began swinging a steel rod at several others in Seminary Park around 9:30 a.m., and then went to a vehicle to retrieve a hatchet, which he threw at the same people in the park, according to police. Swartzentruber then left, and entered the storm sewer system at near the intersection of 1st Street and South Walnut Street.

When police told Swartzentruber to exit he yelled back he had a rifle and threatened to shoot officers.

“It was learned that Swartzentruber had an outstanding arrest warrant out of Daviess County for a felony charge of Battery Against a Public Safety Official,” according to BPD Captain Ryan Pedigo.

No shots were fired, and police haven’t found a firearm, but are still searching the storm drain system. Police did find several unfired .30-06 rifle cartridges.

The following press release was sent to the media:


September 20, 2022
For more information, please contact:
Captain Ryan Pedigo
Bloomington Police Department
[email protected]

Bloomington Police Search Storm Sewer for Suspect

On September 20, 2022 at approximately 09:30 a.m., Bloomington Police Department
(BPD) officers responded to Seminary Park for a report of a man swinging a steel rod at
several individuals. While officers were en route to the park, it was reported that the
suspect had gone to a vehicle in the nearby Kroger parking lot and retrieved a hatchet.
The suspect then reportedly walked towards the same individuals in the park and threw
the hatchet at them. Officers arrived shortly thereafter and witnesses said that the man
had left the area on foot and was last seen headed southbound towards First Street.
Officers began checking the area and located clothing hanging from a railing along First
Street that appeared to be clothing that matched that of the suspect’s. The clothing was on
a railing near a very large storm drain exit that leads north towards the downtown area
between College Avenue and Walnut Street. Officers attempted to make verbal contact
with the suspect and yelled into the storm drain for him to exit. The man yelled back at
the officers and advised them not to enter the storm drain and that he was armed with
rifle. The suspect also threatened to shoot the officers if they entered the storm drain. At
that point, officers took a positon of cover and waited for additional officers to arrive.
Due to the violent acts of the suspect, along with the threat that he was armed with a rifle,
a decision was made to have the BPD Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) respond
to search for the suspect. BPD also requested that employees from the City of
Bloomington Utilities respond to the scene with diagrams of the underground storm drain


system that is connected to box culvert where the man went underground. Further, a
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team from the Indiana State Police was requested
to respond due to the large area that needed to be searched. Officers used equipment
designed to inspect the storm sewer in an effort to locate the suspect, but failed to do so
in the section of sewer that runs northbound under Walnut Street and then west towards
College Avenue near Smith Avenue. However, as officers removed manhole covers to
attempt to make contact with the suspect, an unfired rifle cartridge was discovered in the
sewer below Smith Avenue that appeared to have just recently been dropped. Members of
the Critical Incident Response Team did utilize noise-flash diversionary devices
(NFDDs) inside the storm sewer, which resulted in several loud bangs that could be heard
by nearby residences and businesses.
While the search was underway, investigators were able to identify the suspect as Eli
Swartzentruber (37, transient). It was learned that Swartzentruber had an outstanding
arrest warrant out of Daviess County for a felony charge of Battery Against a Public
Safety Official. Further, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office was actively attempting to
locate him, as they had developed probable cause for his arrest for several felony charges
as a result of an incident that he was alleged to have been involved in earlier in the
morning of September 20 th .
Indiana State Police South SWAT members were able to deploy a City of Bloomington
Utilities camera into the connecting storm sewer from the area of N Indiana Avenue and
E 6 th Street. Once the camera was approximately 500 feet into the storm sewer, officers
observed a man that matched the description of the suspect. It is believed that this area
would be under Kirkwood Avenue. The man initially stated that he would to exit the
storm sewer on the north end, but then attempted to flee back to the southwest further
into the storm sewer after destroying the camera. At that point, Senior Trooper Richard
Klun deployed his K9 partner Loki, which successfully apprehended the man. Troopers
with ISP South SWAT were then able to take the man into custody and positively
identified him as Eli Swartzentruber. Swartzentruber was escorted out of the storm sewer
and was placed into the back of an ambulance to be transported to IU Health
Bloomington Hospital for treatment. It was determined that he had an empty handgun
holster on his person at the time of his arrest.
Investigators searched the storm sewers but did not locate a rifle or a handgun. However,
several unfired .30-06 rifle cartridges were located. Further, a hand scythe and a machete
were also found. Officers will continue to search the storm sewers in the coming days in
an effort to locate any firearms.
Once released from the hospital, Eli Swartzentruber (DOB 10/15/1984) was transported
to the Monroe County Jail and remanded for the following charges as a result of this
Attempted Battery with a Deadly Weapon, level 5 felony
Intimidation, level 6 felony


The investigation is still active and additional criminal charges may be forthcoming.
Other involved agencies may also have additional criminal charges as a result of their
The Bloomington Police Department is extremely appreciative of the assistance provided
by the Indiana State Police, the Indiana University Police Department, and the Monroe
County Sheriff’s Office.
No further information is available to be released at this time.


Under Indiana law, criminal charges are merely accusations and the defendant is
presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
A booking photo of Swartzentruber was not available at the time of this release.”

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