Mom of Purdue student arrested calls on Daniels to ‘stand with me for justice for my son’
Plus, an F-you moment over masks for Lafayette school board. And Dayton’s town clerk-treasurer hints that there’s more to come as she resigns
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A civil rights attorney hired by the family of Adonis Tuggle, a Purdue student whose Feb. 4 arrest on campus is being investigated as a possible case to excessive force by a Purdue police officer, says they are waiting to see more body cam footage and other evidence from the scene, as they call for an independent investigation.
Andrew Stroth, a Chicago-based attorney with Action Injury Law Group, said the family also is hoping police drop charges against Tuggle and that Officer Jon Selke is disciplined appropriately, as video of the arrest that has gone viral since the Purdue junior posted it Wednesday afternoon.
“We have to look at all the evidence and figure out what needs to happen,” Stroth said. “I believe what Adonis has told me. … I just think if you have a town hall with hundreds of students, you have a video that's going viral with over 2 million views just on Instagram, you’ve got to think that the university would take measures to make sure this doesn't happen to another student.”
Stroth said Tuggle is on campus, taking coursework for the spring semester, after scenes of his arrest on Horticulture Drive went nuts. The scenes prompted the Purdue Black Student Union and other groups to hold a town forum that drew a standing-room-only crowd in Lilly Hall 1-105, one of the largest lecture halls on the West Lafayette campus.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels responded with promises of a “swift and thorough” review of the case, first by the Purdue University Police Department and then by the Indiana State Police. Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington also asked for an Indiana State Police investigation. Daniels also said video, including body camera and dash cam footage, would be released with the results of the investigation.
Purdue police say they were called the night of Feb. 4 to what a bystander said looked a woman being held against her will. What happened when Selke first arrived isn’t clear.
But in a one-minute video shot by Tuggle’s girlfriend, Selke is seen wrestling Tuggle into a pile of snow, at times pushing his elbow and forearm into Tuggle’s face and neck. Tuggle yells that the officer is choking him and that he can’t breathe. As Tuggle’s girlfriend tells Selke that she’s recording the scene and screams for the officer to stop several times, she pleads: “You’re hurting him. … Get off of him.” At one point, as Tuggle’s girlfriend gets close and yells at the officer to stop choking him, Selke tells her to back off, saying, “Touch me again, and I will taze you. Stop.”
For the video, click the photo below:
Tuggle was arrested for resisting arrest and bonded out of the Tippecanoe County Jail the same night.
“Whether it's George Floyd knee on the neck, or Adonis with an officer's elbow in his throat, again, it's just another act of violence against a black person in America,” Stroth said. “And in this case, to make matters worse, it took place on Purdue's campus, by an officer working in the employment of the university. So, the family is seeking truth.”
On Friday, Purdue officials released a statement Friday that they didn’t plan to comment further on the case or on the review until it’s over, “to ensure the integrity of the investigation.”
Late last week, Cornelia Dawson, Tuggle’s mother, wrote a letter to Daniels, telling him she was “heart broken and devastated” about what she’s seen in the video. She told Daniels about Tuggle’s decision to attend Purdue and how that made her “rest easy at night” believing her son would be in a safer setting than in inner-city schools.
“I became an ambassador for Purdue and felt proud to tell people my son attends the prestigious and reputable Purdue University,” Dawson wrote. “With all of this being expressed, I must reiterate again that I am very disturbed, disappointed and more fearful for my son at Purdue University, which has now changed the narrative of his life story, and will adversely affect the mental health of my son for years to follow after this occurrence.”
She called on Daniels to “stand with me for justice for my son,” hold the officer accountable for hurting Tuggle “and creating an unsafe and uncomfortable educational experience for him, as well as other students who are now concerned and disturbed about this matter.”
Stroth said he had been in touch with Indiana State Police but was waiting on Daniels.
“Let's see what happens once the body cam gets released,” Stroth said. “But I don't I don't think this case is going to just be in the news cycle today and gone tomorrow. I think that the students on that campus really care. Adonis and his family really care. And it seems as though the university is taking steps.”
LSC MASK POLICY UNCHANGED … FOR NOW
The same day Tippecanoe School Corp., the county’s biggest district and one of the top 15 largest in Indiana, went to a mask-optional policy in its classrooms, things got tense at the end of Monday’s Lafayette school board meeting.
Matthew Lage early in the meeting, during a public comment segment, had asked when LSC would change its mask policy. The board didn’t address the COVID policy, in place since the start of the school year, during Monday’s monthly meeting. So, as the board adjourned, Lage asked when he could expect an answer.
With none coming immediately, Lage challenged the board; challenged whether masks worked; challenged whether the district cared about parents’ concerns about developmental issues they see coming from masks; challenged whether board members were “living in CNN mode;” challenged when he saw someone shaking their heads during his three-minute, post-meeting tirade.
As he wound down and headed for the door, Lage told the room: “F*ck all of you. … Wake up.”
How much of that, in some version, had Superintendent Les Huddle fielded in recent weeks, as an Omicron-driven surge in COVID cases continued to recede? (In Tippecanoe County, the seven-day average was at 72 new cases a day, as of Monday, the lowest since Thanksgiving and off a peak of 541 new cases a day as recently as Jan. 21.)
“I wouldn’t say that, but what we’re getting are common sense, logical questions,” Huddle said. “Everybody on the planet’s tired of masks, and we all want to be able to take them off.”
For LSC, just not yet.
Huddle said the district recognizes that cases are coming down. But he said the current state guidelines for schools with mask-option policies, which require a return to contact tracing and five-day quarantines for unvaccinated students who are within six feet in a classroom of someone who tests positive. That state guideline is was lifted mid-January for schools that had mask-required policies.
“We don't have a date circled on the calendar anywhere, but if we can hang on and our numbers continue to be as low, it'll be an option that the board is ready and will be willing to discuss,” Huddle said.
The TSC school board voted 4-3 on Wednesday to go mask-optional indoors at its schools.
DAYTON CLERK STEPS ASIDE, HINTS AT BIGGER PROBLEMS AT TOWN HALL
Michelle Frewerd stepped down last week, effective Feb. 7, as the town of Dayton’s clerk-treasurer, another bit of small government friction in Tippecanoe County in the past few years.
Dayton has had no shortage of contention in its town hall and beyond, played out in the open in the “Keep Dayton Small” fight over proposed residential subdivision growth and in a contentious 2019 town board election that wound up settled, in part, in court.
Frewerd declined to talk directly about led to her departure, after being appointed to the post in early 2019 and then winning election, running unopposed, later that year.
But in a resignation letter to Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush, Frewerd hinted at deep problems in her relationship with the town board and how it was running the town or roughly 1,500 people, just east of Lafayette and Interstate 65.
“There are many factors that forced me to make this decision, and I will be providing those factors to local and state government officials with the (Department of Local Government Finance) and State Board of Accounts,” Frewerd wrote.
She also left a 15-minute post on her Facebook account – where she often details her account of how the town was being run – in which she said she’d been on the wrong side of “constant backlash and accusations.” She called out longtime town board member Ron Koehler for trying to dominate all that went on in the town, board member Jen Manago for going behind her back to get bank statements in ways that weren’t legal and for Dayton Watchdog – a Facebook page managed by Cindy Marsh, Koehler’s wife – for making accusations that left the clerk to “endure this type of toxic work environment.”
“Now that Mr. Koehler has control of the board, I'm the first clerk to not only have the wrath of Koehler and the Watchdog, but three other board members under his control, making this the worst for any clerk on the wrong side of the fence with them,” Frewerd said in her Facebook video.
The Facebook farewell, recorded Jan. 31 and now in a private group called “Former Dayton Clerk-Treasure Michelle Frewerd,” also has an all-secrets-will-be-told tone. But she doesn’t give details about why the State Board of Account and the Department of Local Government Finance, state agencies that track and audit government spending, would be getting letters.
“If anybody questions or does not believe anything that I say,” she said, “everything is public record, you can see it with your own two eyes or listen to the meetings.”
Asked about Frewerd’s departure and her accusations, Ron Koehler said: "I wish her luck in the next chapter in her life.”
Manago said she disagreed that she ever tried to control Frewerd. Manago said she went to the town’s bank to see bank statements because she contended that Frewerd refused to share town financial information. Manago said that when that happened, “we went to the source” – the bank – to get the documents.
“I have noticed that anytime she was asked for any information whatsoever, she would rage about how controlling it was,” Manago said. “I have always found it extremely concerning and unfortunate that the former clerk-treasurer was and is so adversarial and confrontational about any oversight of the taxpayer money.”
Frewerd promised to release letters to the State Board of Accounts and the Department of Local Government Finance when she sent them.
Dayton’s 2019 town council election featured rival approaches to an annexation and rezoning along the southern end of Dayton Road, which cleared the way for a subdivision with more than 100 homes. Koehler was the lone town council member against the annexation and rezoning, which prompted waves of “Keep Dayton Small” yard signs as the subdivision debate played out in the two years before the election. Marsh and the Dayton Watchdog page were instrumental to the “Keep Dayton Small” drumbeat. Koehler ran on a ticket that won all but one seat from the previous, pro-annexation board. (That included one race challenged in court, when Stan Kyger claimed Tyrone Taylor should not have been on the ballot because of a 20-year-old conviction Taylor thought had been expunged.)
Because town positions, including clerk-treasurer, are elected as an independent, the five-member board will get to pick Frewerd’s replacement. Manago said that meeting will be 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at Dayton Town Hall, 721 Walnut St.
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