A former officer with the Muncie Police Department, in Muncie, Indiana, has pleaded guilty to eleven civil rights and obstruction charges.
The officer, Chase Winkle, specifically pleaded guilty to five federal civil rights offenses for assaulting arrestees, and to six obstruction offenses for writing false reports to cover up the assaults.
“Officer Winkle, the son of the former Chief of Police, confessed to repeated uses of excessive force and obstruction of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“This defendant’s misconduct injured his victims and undermined the police department’s credibility with the community. We hope that this guilty plea sends a message that neither a badge nor familial connections will shield an officer from facing justice for his wrongdoing.”
“Today’s guilty pleas are an important step forward as we seek justice for the victims in this case,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers for the Southern District of Indiana.
“Our office, the Department of Justice and our federal partners are firmly committed to holding law enforcement officers accountable when they violate their oaths and the civil rights of the people they were sworn to protect.”
According to court documents and statements made during the change of plea hearing, on or about August 9, 2018, Winkle and another officer arrested a civilian identified as L.G.
“As L.G. was lying on the ground, with the other officer holding both of L.G.’s hands behind his back, L.G. directed a verbal insult towards the officers. In response to the insult, Officer Winkle, using his knee, dropped his full bodyweight down onto L.G.’s neck and head area,” the documents revealed.
It was revealed that L.G. screamed out in pain and yelled that Winkle had crushed his face. A few moments later, Winkle deployed taser prongs into L.G.’s back and activated the taser.
The documents further alleged that Officer Winkle’s use of force caused severe bodily injury to L.G., multiple facial fractures that required surgery. Following the incident, Winkle wrote a false report about what happened.
“On or about June 5, 2018, Winkle participated in the arrest of two then-juveniles, N.B. and R.F. The incident began when MPD officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop of a car, but the driver did not initially stop and instead drove away from the officers.
“The occupants – including N.B. and R.F. – eventually jumped out of the car and ran from officers on foot. Officer Winkle and another then-MPD officer, Dalton Kurtz, engaged in a short foot chase of N.B., who eventually lay down in a yard. Kurtz found N.B, alerted Officer Winkle, and aimed his firearm and a flashlight at N.B., who was lying on his stomach with his arms extended in front of him and his hands visible and open.
“As N.B. lay on the ground, with his hands extended in front of him, Officer Winkle ran towards N.B. and kicked him in the head. Winkle then positioned himself near N.B.’s shoulder and delivered approximately two closed fist strikes to the back or side of N.B.’s head, and two open hand strikes to N.B.’s face. Shortly after N.B.’s arrest, Officer Winkle found R.F. in a nearby garage.
“Winkle ordered R.F. to show his hands and R.F. complied, holding both hands above his head. As another officer began to handcuff R.F., Officer Winkle walked up and slapped R.F. in the face. Following the incident, Officer Winkle authored a false report regarding the arrests of both N.B. and R.F,” the documents stated.
On or about March 27, 2018, Winkle and another MPD officer responded to a call involving a complaint against a civilian, I.P. When the officers found I.P. in an alleyway, I.P. stood up and immediately put his hands up in the air with his palms open, in a position indicating surrender.
Winkle ordered I.P. to get down to the ground, and I.P., with his hands in the air, began to get down to the ground. As I.P. began to lower himself to the ground, Officer Winkle kicked him in the abdomen/hip area, causing him to fall backwards into a chain link fence behind him.
As I.P. tried to steady himself against the fence, Winkle delivered a second kick directly to I.P.’s head, knocking I.P. unconscious. Shortly after the arrest, Winkle wrote a false report about the incident.
On or about May 22, 2018, Officer Winkle authored a false report about the arrest of an individual identified as D.E. During the arrest, Winkle placed D.E. in handcuffs, and then struck and used a pain compliance technique on him.
On or about Feb. 17, 2019, Officer Winkle responded to the scene of a traffic stop, and he and another officer ordered the passenger, B.B. out of the car. B.B. complied and stepped out of the car, but was caught in the seatbelt.
As B.B. started to pull the seatbelt off of his body, Winkle punched B.B. in the face, and officers took B.B. to the ground. After a short scuffle, B.B. was handcuffed, after which Winkle used four knee strikes to B.B.’s torso area. Officer Winkle later wrote a false report regarding the arrest.
Finally, on or about May 13, 2019, another former MPD officer, Jeremy Gibson initiated a traffic stop of a car because one of the car’s headlights was out.
When the driver stepped out of the car, Gibson attempted to physically take him to the ground, and punched him several times with a closed fist in the process. As other officers attempted to secure E.M., Officer Winkle used a knee strike to the left side of E.M.’s head or upper body.
Gibson delivered a knee strike to the right of E.M.’s head, causing his head to swing to the left, back toward Winkle, and Winkle delivered another knee strike to the left side of E.M.’s head. Following the arrest, Officer Winkle wrote a false report about the incident.
Winkle admitted that he knew at the time of the incidents that his uses of force against the arrestees were unjustified and unreasonable under the circumstances.
He further admitted that he wrote false reports about what happened, including making false statements and material omissions, in order to influence any potential investigations into the incidents.
Winkle is one of four Muncie Police Department officers who were indicted in April 2021 in a 17-count superseding indictment for their roles in using excessive force against arrestees and/or attempting to cover up the misconduct.
A fifth Muncie police officer, Dalton Kurtz, previously entered a pre-indictment guilty plea on Aug. 4, 2021, to one count of misprision of felony for concealing and failing to report inappropriate use of force by Officer Winkle during the arrest of N.B.
On May 13, 2022, Officer Jeremy Gibson also pleaded guilty to civil rights and obstruction charges for assaulting E.M. and writing a false report about the incident.
The remaining two officers are scheduled to stand trial in January 2023.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Myers and Special Agent in Charge Herbert J. Stapleton of the FBI Indianapolis Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI conducted the investigation.
Trial Attorneys Katherine G. DeVar and Mary J. Hahn of the Civil Rights Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Blackett for the Southern District of Indiana are prosecuting the case.