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Growlers on Highway

Growlers on Highway in Highland. 

HIGHLAND — As police continued to investigate a weekend shooting outside a Highland bar that wounded two off-duty police officers, Town Council members prepared Wednesday to meet with the bar's owners regarding late-night problems there.

Meanwhile, court records revealed a Burnham, Illinois, man released Monday without charges in the Highland shooting pleaded guilty in 2013 to misdemeanor battery on law enforcement in connection with a fight at Southlake Mall in Hobart.

And police continued to investigate Tuesday whether any off-duty police officers contributed to the melee, a source close to the investigation told The Times.

In the recent case, O’Neill Cruz-Burgos, 25, was arrested after the shooting about 2:30 a.m. Saturday at Growlers, 2816 Highway Ave. He was released Monday after a 48-hour hold period ended.

A second man, who was arrested with Cruz-Burgos, previously was released.

More than 30 police calls to bar

Town Councilmen Mark Herak and Bernie Zemen said they plan to meet with the owners of Growlers to address concerns.

Highland police on Tuesday released 36 police reports detailing calls involving the bar during the past year, including nine disturbances, two fights and two batteries. In seven cases, officers were conducting routine checks at the bar.

In an additional case, Highland police Officer John Swisher was seriously injured in December 2016 when a man who had been drinking at Growlers struck his squad while driving the wrong way on Kennedy Avenue, court records show.

A possible plan for improvement at the bar could include increasing the cover charge, shutting down earlier in the night, eliminating certain types of music, prohibiting smoking or refraining from offering late-night drink specials, Herak said.

Growlers is a "great place to go for lunch and a nice meeting place after work," Zemen said.

"But things go in the wrong direction after the bands finish up," Zemen said. "I'm hoping we can work things out."

Police used Taser on man in 2012

A Times review of Lake County criminal court records indicate Saturday wasn't Cruz-Burgos' first run-in with police.

In November 2012, Hobart police subdued Cruz-Burgos with a Taser during a fight involving several people at Southlake Mall, according to a police report.

A Hobart police officer responded to the Zumiez Skate Apparel store Nov. 18, 2012, and found mall security officers chasing a then-19-year-old man accused of stealing a $59 Diamond Supply Co. sweatshirt. The officer caught up with the man, ordered him to stop and pointed a Taser at him. The man stopped and was arrested, the report says.

The man's girlfriend followed officers as they took the man back to the Hobart police substation. Officers told the woman to leave several times, but she became enraged and shouted profanities, the report says.

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An officer attempted to arrest the woman on a disorderly conduct charge, but she pulled away and began to kick and flail her arms, according to the report.

While the officer struggled with the woman, Cruz-Burgos and another man began grabbing a security officer, who also was trying to restrain the woman, the report says.

Cruz-Burgos struck the security officer with a closed fist, while the other man kicked the security officer. Several more police officers arrived, and one of them took down Cruz-Burgos.

As Cruz-Burgos hit the ground, an officer attempted to apply a distraction technique to nerves in his neck but inadvertently struck his nose area, the report says. Cruz-Burgos continued to fight, so officers used a Taser on him before taking him into custody.

Cruz-Burgos suffered a bloody nose and was taken to St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart for observation.

Cruz-Burgos pleaded guilty in November 2013 to misdemeanor battery on law enforcement in that case. As part of a plea agreement, Lake County prosecutors agreed to dismiss misdemeanor charges of resisting law enforcement and refusal to identify in another 2013 case stemming from a trespassing report in Griffith, court records show.

Investigators review videos

In the more recent case, a source close to the investigation of the shooting at Growlers said surveillance footage of the bar melee is not as definitive as some media outlets have reported.

The source said it’s unclear to what extent police officers on the scene participated in the melee. “If it was definitive, police officers already would have been charged."

Police and prosecutors are investigating whether any off-duty officers at the scene instigated or contributed to the melee, the source said.

East Chicago police Officer David Aguilera, who was a patron at the bar, was shot in the head and taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. East Chicago FOP Lodge 59 said on Facebook that Aguilera was released Sunday. He currently is on paid vacation leave, East Chicago police Lt. Marguerite Wilder said.

Gary Officer Dwayne Brown, who was off duty and working for the bar as a bouncer, also was wounded in the shooting. His status with the Gary Police Department remained unclear Tuesday. 

The Highland Police Department has asked the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation.

Highland police on Monday asked residents to come forward if they have cellphone video or witnessed Saturday's melee between two people and the off-duty officers. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Highland police Detective Cmdr. Ralph Potesta at 219-838-3184.

Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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