U.S.

Indiana Police Officers Filmed Punching Handcuffed Suspect Are Charged With Using Excessive Force

A federal grand jury indicted two Elkhart, Indiana, police officers Thursday after they allegedly punched a handcuffed arrestee in the face multiple times.

Cory Newland, 35, and Joshua Titus, 30, were charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, the Department of Justice announced Friday. Elkhart County officials had previously charged the men with misdemeanor battery, according to The South Bend Tribune.

The latest indictment accused Newland and Titus of hitting arrestee “M.L.” in the face several times after he spat at one of them. M.L.—known as Mario Guerrero Ledesma—was handcuffed and seated in a chair in the Elkhart Police Department during the alleged incident.

Ledesma fell to the ground during the altercation, but Newland and Titus continued to punch him as he lay handcuffed on the floor, the indictment stated. Police had arrested Guerrero on suspicion of domestic battery, the Tribune reported.

The January 2018 incident was caught on surveillance footage obtained and released by the Tribune and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica. Authorities brought the latest charge against the two officers after an investigation by the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office, the Justice Department reported.

Grant Mendenhall, a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division, said in the Justice Department's statement: “Today’s indictments send a clear message that the FBI won’t tolerate the abuse of power or victimization of citizens by anyone in law enforcement. The alleged actions by these individuals went against everything in the oath they took to serve and protect."

Titus faces a May trial at the Elkhart Superior Court over the earlier battery charge, the Tribune reported. Newland will meet with prosecutors in April, possibly to negotiate a plea deal. Officials had previously put the two men on administrative leave. The officers also received reprimands about five months after the alleged incident, ProPublica noted.

Joshua Titus, Cory Newland Joshua Titus, left, and Cory Newland, are pictured in these undated images. Elkhart Police Department

Surveillance footage of the alleged attack shook the local community when it was released in November. Although some residents defended the police at a town hall, others asked why the two officers had not been fired and questioned how the local police chief could be trusted, ProPublica and the Tribune previously reported.

Mayor Tim Neese put then-police chief Ed Windbigler on unpaid leave for 30 days in November. In February, the City of Elkhart announced it was moving forward with an independent assessment of the police department. Former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Deborah Daniels will investigate disciplinary processes, use of force and agency culture, the mayor’s Office stated.

In a statement shared with Newsweek, current Elkhart police chief Chris Snyder said he could not comment on the incident because of the ongoing criminal process. An internal investigation will take place once the process is over, he said, but for now Newland and Titus "remain on paid administrative leave." A request to place them on unpaid leave "is being drafted."

"I would like to thank the community for their understanding as we all work through this process and continue to move forward," Snyder added.

This article has been updated with a statement from Chris Snyder.

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