Tear gas

A police officer kicks a can of tear gas into the street May 30 in Fort Wayne. The police deployed tear gas into the crowds after protesters started to block traffic.

The Allen County Prosecutor’s Office will pore over what it expects could be thousands of hours of footage from protests May 29 and 30 in downtown Fort Wayne to determine how to proceed with the more than 100 arrests made in connection with those protests.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said in a news conference June 15 that two investigators have been tabbed to review hundreds of hours of video and other evidence — most of which has been submitted by the Fort Wayne Police Department, but also includes in-car footage from citizens, drone footage and other camera footage. Richards said her office has also made several requests for footage from local media.

“My best guess is it’s probably going to take us at least 30 days to go through everything, so I’m not expecting to have any decision quickly, and I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to give decisions quickly,” Richards said. “We aren’t looking at these cases any differently than we would any other case, and every single case that comes in gets an individual review and an individual determination as to how to proceed — and that’s exactly what we’re going to do here.”

Richards’ June 15 news conference was a response to between 300 and 400 emails she received regarding the arrests made May 29 and 30. On both those nights, police administered tear gas to disperse crowds gathered outside the Allen County Courthouse after protesters had reportedly begun to block traffic on Clinton Street. Several protesters were arrested for property damage. Richards said there are approximately 108 misdemeanor cases pending, in addition to some felonies, and many of the emails she has received have asked that the charges against protestors be dropped.

On Sunday, June 14, police arrested six more protestors in downtown Fort Wayne on multiple charges. Officers partially closed Clinton Street while protesters marched to the courthouse lawn after 4 p.m. The Fort Wayne Police Department reported that squad cars closed traffic at Clinton and Fourth streets for safety purposes, and protestors continued to move barricades into the street, throw rocks at squad cars, drag fencing across Clinton and block the entire roadway near the downtown Police Operations Center. Public Safety Response Team and Emergency Services Team units issued several warnings after 7 p.m. that the protest had become an unlawful assembly, arresting individuals that failed to vacate the area.

During the June 15 press conference, Richards said the review of evidence will allow her office to decide how to proceed — whether charges are brought or dropped, or whether some cases will go to trial. She added that the evidence could help the police department make additional arrests if the footage reveals any instances of battery or property damage by individuals who were not arrested during the protests.

“By the time we get done, I expect there are going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of evidence for us to review,” she said. “… I think our hope is that anybody that was involved in all of this that did things that amount to criminal offenses — breaking windows, damaging property — that we will eventually be able to identify those folks and get them arrested.”

Once the evidence is reviewed, it will be forwarded on to defense counsel, which will make for a slow process, Richards said.

“An appropriate end result is what everyone should be looking for here,” she said.

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