Photo credit: The News-Dispatch Photo/Swede
Michigan City police continue to comb through extensive debris at the Michigan City Fire Department's administration building after a break-in late Sunday.
The mess left at the former Central Fire Station, 117 W. Fourth St., is one of at least four instances of vandalism and break-ins from this past weekend in the downtown area, stretching from City Hall, where windows were smashed, to the 600 block of Franklin Street, where Trinity Episcopal Church was damaged.
But the worst damage happened at the fire department where two cars and a sport utility vehicle were extensively damaged as vandals raced them around the main truck bay in an apparent game of demolition derby. A pumper truck also was damaged, along with an overhead door and windows, while an upstairs office was ransacked.
Michigan City police are expected to release more details about the incident today, including the arrest of at least two -- and possibly several more -- juveniles. Some of those expected to be arrested are "younger than teenagers," according to an investigator.
Reports say a witness called police around 9 p.m. Sunday to report seeing movement inside the former Central Fire Station.
Patrolman Timothy Hazel, who was the first to arrive at the scene, said a witness saw what appeared to be someone trying to drive a vehicle through a large overhead door. When Hazel arrived and looked through a window, he saw extensive damage to the vehicle parking bays.
On the north side of the building, he discovered someone pried off a lock on a basement door to gain entrance into the building.
Calling for backup, Hazel said as he walked through the building looking for possible suspects, he discovered three fire department vehicles sustained a great deal of damage.
"It appeared that whomever was in the building drove the damaged cars around the bay area, ramming into walls, department equipment and into each other," Hazel said.
Two Chevrolet Caprices and a Jeep Cherokee sustained the most damage. The vehicles were smashed and windows broken out.
"A department pumper truck had also been rammed by the vehicles and sustained damage," Hazel said.
Mayor Chuck Oberlie said the vehicles damaged were slated to be removed from the rotation of city vehicles and ready to be traded in. He said the pumper truck was stationed at the administration building because of a lack of space at other stations.
Hazel also discovered fire-poles bent out of shape and a Coke machine and drinking fountain damaged.
Deputy Chief John Hardacker arrived at the scene and told police he wasn't sure when someone from the department was last been in the building. Friday was the last business day the office would have been open.
As police continued to the second floor, they discovered vandals overturned file cabinets and dividing walls, damaged office equipment, ransacked files and damaged an employee's personal items.
Also under investigation is a report of vandalism at Trinity Episcopal Church, 614 Franklin St., where damage was reported to an east side window Sunday afternoon. The cost was put at $100.
Officer Steven Alt reported that while the Rev. Eugene Kohlbecker was making rounds at the church, he discovered the broken window and found a large chunk of asphalt outside the window in the alley.
Vandals apparently entered the church through the broken window. Police said they found a footprint in dust on the window sill. Also found in the alley were several pieces of costume jewelry and a broken ceramic bowl, which police said are believed to have been stolen from the church thrift shop.
Investigators also were called to The Northern Indiana Education Foundation, 402 Franklin St., where it appears someone entered and damaged the building early Sunday.
According to police, vandals threw two bricks and a rock through the south door window to gain entry to the building.
In the first floor receptionist's office, articles were thrown on the floor and the desk ransacked. Vending machines in the basement lunchroom were damaged, and police said soft drinks and candy were stolen from the machines.
Police also said a small metal box was pried open and an unknown amount of money taken. Computers in the basement office were knocked to the floor and wires pulled from them.