Family questions teen’s forceful arrest at Indiana festival

HAMMOND, Ind. — Hammond police are reviewing body camera footage after a family said police officers roughed up a teenage boy Wednesday night at the Festival of Lakes.

Dominic Garibay, 15, said he was trying to meet up with his family to leave the festival when a police officer pushed him. Police said that’s not true.

Facebook video shot by Garibay’s older brother captured the end of the incident.

Police said body cameras show how the incident began — but that footage has not yet been released.

“The young man starts to fight and starts to resist arrest," Hammond Police Lt. Steve Kellogg said.

“[The officer] pushed me,” Garibay told WGN News. “I was confused so I just tried to, like, go around him, and he started grabbing me by my clothes like really aggressively. … I was like, ‘What the heck? ... I’m not doing anything.’ And then he got me in a chokehold and put me to the ground.”

"In the state of Indiana, Kellogg said, "you cannot put your hands on a police officer."

“I was, like, trying to break free because, like, I couldn’t breathe,” Garibay said.

Garibay was arrested for disorderly conduct. He was taken to the hospital with cuts to his face.

“I don’t really understand why this happened the way it happened,” Garibay’s mother, Elizabeth Montejano, said.

Police said they were trying to break up a fight among teenage girls at the time of the incident.

“I didn’t even know the two girls," Garibay said. "I had nothing to do with the fight."

But police said they had secured a perimeter and were not letting people through in order to deescalate the crowd.

“A young man tries to enter the crowd," Kellogg said. "An officer says, ‘Get back. Don’t play any games.’ Then says ‘Get back’ again, and at that point, the young man reaches out and touches the officer. We don’t know what it’s an attempt to do."

“He didn’t even give him a warning," Montejano said. "He could have talked to him like ‘Hey, hey son, don’t go in there."

Garibay said he was just trying to meet back up with his family. He still thinks he didn’t do anything wrong.

The officer "overstepped his badge, if you will," Montejano said. "He took advantage of it."

Police said they are reviewing the officer’s use of force, but it looks as if all involved followed their training.

“I understand maybe he didn’t understand why he was being arrested," Kellogg said. "That’s fine. You still don’t put your hands on a police officer."

No charges have been filed yet. Police said they know about the boy’s injuries and that injuries are not uncommon when police are forced to restrain someone.

Police said their IT [information technology] person is on vacation, and that’s why they haven’t released the full unedited video. When they do, it will be posted to the department's Facebook page.

The full statement from Hammond police:

On July 18th, at approximately 11:05 pm, officers working a local festival were breaking up a violent fist fight between two teenage girls. As officers were attempting to secure the area around the fight and affect the arrest of the juveniles, another juvenile male, age 15, attempted to get through the area being blocked off by officers. One officer, told the young man three times to step back away from the area. In an attempt to block access to the fight, the officer extended his arm to keep back the young man attempting to get through the line. The young man slapped away the arm of the officer protecting the scene.
At this point, the officer made the decision to arrest the juvenile for disorderly conduct. The officer attempted to affect the arrest of the male and the male began to yell and resist arrest. The officers on scene took the male to the ground and were able to secure the male in handcuffs. The male continued to resist and yell profanities throughout the encounter. An officer attempted to walk the male to a secure area when he again began to resist arrest and was taken to the ground once more until a transport vehicle could be brought closer to the area.
A thorough investigation is underway to ascertain the facts of the situation and appropriate action will be taken. After all body camera footage has been reviewed, and we know more with certainty and confidence, we will share with you whatever it is we are able to at that time.