GARY — A police officer resigned after arresting and forcibly stopping a video blogger from filming her while she was on-duty.
Edward Michael Strauss, 36, of Gary, was arrested the night of Sept. 1 in front of his home after filming officer Nicretia Jones and other officers from a public walkway. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement.
On Monday, the charges were dropped against Strauss in Gary City Court, according to a court document signed by Judge Deidre Monroe.
Angela Brown, administrator for the City of Gary Police Civil Service Commission, said Jones resigned effective March 8. Her resignation was accepted by the police commission during its April 3 public meeting, Gary City Attorney Rodney Pol, Jr., said.
However, Strauss said he still plans to continue with a lawsuit against Jones, the city, Gary Police Department, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary Police Chief Richard Allen, Deputy Chief Brian Evans and the two other Gary officers who were allegedly at the scene during the incident, Cpl. James Nielsen and probationary Officer D. Kirk.
The city does not comment on pending litigation, Gary spokeswoman LaLosa Burns said. She said the city is aware that Jones resigned and that the other officers involved were interviewed as a part of an internal investigation.
Strauss filed the legal complaint and demand for a jury trial on Jan. 18, according to court documents.
On the night of Sept. 1, officers were responding to a disturbance in the 4200 block of West 11th Place when Strauss began filming officers from across the street. The video ended with Strauss being handcuffed.
“It could've been anybody in that position,” Strauss said. “How many people see a fire down the street and walk down there and record to post on Facebook? It happens all the time. It could've been anyone in the situation I was in.”
The video of Strauss' arrest circulated on YouTube, which to date has more than 11,300 views.
In a Jan. 10 letter to the Gary Police Civil Service Commission, Allen wrote that Jones violated several of the department’s standard operating procedures.
In the letter, Allen said Jones disrespected Strauss' constitutionally protected civil rights, knowingly made false statements and engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer.
Strauss has filmed and posted multiple videos of on-duty officers. He has also been arrested on numerous occasions over the years on charges of criminal trespassing and other alleged crimes.
One accusation against Strauss involved him dressed in a furry pink pig costume allegedly making lewd motions toward a Lake Station squad car on Jan. 10, while on River Forest Junior and Senior High School property in Hobart, according to court documents.
Strauss said the fuzzy pig costume inside a police uniform is part of a persona named "Qualified Immunity," which has its own YouTube channel separate from Strauss's regular video blogs. That day, Strauss was filming a segment for another YouTube channel called "Indy Blue News," according to the report.
Strauss said the focus of his video and audio recordings is to hold law enforcement and officials accountable as an auditor of the First Amendment and to spread public awareness.
“I believe video is a great way to show raw footage of what actually happened," Strauss said. "Then you have that raw footage, that raw interaction, between yourself and that person. You're getting a genuine reaction and you can't dispute that. It's not like they could say, 'I was baited into this or that's not how it really happened.' Either accept responsibility for your actions, or don't change and I'll keep coming back and people will see what's going on here and they'll change it."
About three minutes and 30 seconds into the Sept. 1 video, Strauss is seen walking in the street filming the parked squad cars. As two officers exit the house, Jones asks why Strauss is filming them.
"Because I can?" Strauss responds.
"No, you can't. Not of me. No, you can't," Jones replies.
"Well, I can. This is a public street and, by the way, you're live on YouTube right now," Strauss says.
"Well, I don't care. You can't record me. You can't record me. You trying to go to jail?" Jones responds.
The situation escalates, resulting in a brief scuffle after a male officer can be heard saying, “Lower your voice, you're not in charge. Lower your voice.”
As the camera rapidly shakes and crackles, Strauss yells, "Do not touch my camera!" Then a male officer can be heard saying, 'Get on the (expletive) ground!"
"Take me to jail. You know what? You just violated my rights!" Strauss says while he's being handcuffed on the ground.
According to Allen's previous letter to the police commission, when Strauss refused to stop recording and asked Jones for her name and badge number, Jones “grabbed Strauss’ arm that was holding the camera and Strauss pulled his arm back.”
Jones and a second officer then arrested Strauss and placed him in the back of the squad car.
Strauss alleged that he sustained a neck injury from the arrest when an officer allegedly had their knee pressing on the back of his neck. He said he feels the other two officers on the scene the night of Sept. 1 should also be held accountable.
“If you hold your officers accountable, then there's no reason to file a suit," Strauss said. “Because that's really all I want, accountability. They pushed off all of the blame on her because she initiated the interaction and it ended up costing her her job. But it's not just her fault, it's also the fault of the other officers there and the Gary Police Department, that maintains to not train officers on public photography, as well as Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations— when it's appropriate to ID a citizen and when it's not.”
However, Allen previously said Jones did receive training for such occurrences but she did not follow the training's directives.
“Ofc. (Officer) Jones had previously received procedural justice training that specifically trained her to handle this situation differently. Her failure to comply with her training is highly detrimental to the Gary Police Department and the city,” Allen wrote in his letter to the City of Gary Police Civil Service Commission.
Lauren Cross contributed to this report.