South Whitley Council: Officer’s actions don’t merit dismissal

The above screen grab is taken from a youtube video that capured a traffic pullover in South Whitley.
By David Slone

SOUTH WHITLEY — The South Whitley Town Council issued a statement today urging “patience” regarding an officer’s traffic stop involving an 18-year-old woman on Jan. 24.

The father, Brent Augustus, of the motorist, Vivian Augustus, put a video on YouTube Friday taken from surveillance video from the gas station where the stop occurred as well as officer body cam footage.

The officer has been identified as Brian Schimmel, who joined the South Whitley Police Department in October.

In the town’s statement, they say, “In response to a social media post of an edited video of a local law enforcement encounter, the South Whitley Town Council has reviewed the surrounding circumstances, including unabridged video footage from four cameras.

“The council recognizes that officer Brian Schimmel’s interaction with the accused on January 24, 2024, was flawed but not worthy of dismissal. Concerns with the encounter include allowing the accused to have an unmonitored conversation with her father at the scene, which, like other elements of the incident, was not included in the footage released online. The force involved appears consistent with police academy training.

“Since the incident occurred more than two months ago, the marshal has already addressed areas of concern with the officer. The Town Council concurs with both the marshal’s corrective efforts and his decision to retain the officer.

“Once the pending criminal case is resolved, the county prosecutor will likely authorize the release of the full audio and video footage available. At that time, the town intends to make that footage available to the public. However, the course of the criminal case should not be determined on social media, nor will the town release evidence in a pending case without the approval of attorneys for the state of Indiana.”

The statement concludes by saying anyone who wants to be heard on the matter may consider attending a regular meeting of the South Whitley Town Council, which affords time for public comment. However, “the council encourages the public to withhold judgment regarding the matter and will refuse to offer further comment on the matter pending resolution of the related criminal case.”

Vivian Augustus originally was charged with speeding, failure to identify and resisting arrest. The Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office has since reduced the criminal case to a single charge of failure to identify, Brent Augustus told News Now Warsaw in an interview over the weekend.

South Whitley police issued a statement on Saturday saying, “In response to a social media post of an edited video of a local law enforcement encounter, the South Whitley Police Department notes that it is limited in its ability to offer additional information.

“The social media post and comments suggest a uniformed local officer acted unreasonably in his interaction with a driver pulled over for speeding on January 24, 2024. The incident resulted in a criminal charge and judicial finding of probable cause that the driver committed a crime. Persons charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

The statement also says, “It is a crime to refuse to identify yourself if stopped for a traffic infraction. Further, a law enforcement officer is authorized to arrest an individual who commits a crime in the officer’s presence. The reasonableness of this officer’s conduct during the arrest is being reviewed.”

The town attorney has advised it is inappropriate to comment on the underlying facts of the incident while they are being reviewed, the statement also says, to ensure the fairness of the process to all parties.

The Augustus family has talked to several news outlets about the incident since the posting of the video, including News Now Warsaw in which Brent said he was outraged by the video but he was mostly upset with the prosecutor’s decision to move forward with a trail on the single charge and called it a waste of resources.