A special prosecutor is being sought to consider a formal complaint alleging excessive force and harassment by Elizabethtown Town Marshal Tom Nienaber.
The complaint over Nienaber’s actions following a 911 call in Elizabethtown was made by Issac
McGuire, 19, of Elizabethtown.
In an interview this week with The Republic,
McGuire said first-responders were called to his family’s home March 18 because his older brother Francis was suffering from a seizure.
Issac McGuire said he yelled out an obscenity while standing on the porch with another relative after Nienaber and other first-responders arrived.
“I was distraught,” McGuire said in his regard to his language. “I was crying because Francis has a bad liver, and I thought he was dying. But the town marshal grabbed me under the arms, leaving his entire hand print as a mark, and told me to watch my mouth in front of his volunteers.”
In Nienaber’s account of the incident, Issac McGuire was using profanity “in every other sentence.”
Nienaber said that, when two volunteer firefighters, both minors, appeared troubled by the coarse language, he asked McGuire to watch his mouth. But he said his request only seemed to motivate McGuire to get louder and verbally defensive.
The marshal, who has held that office since 1995, said that after he asked McGuire to watch his language a second time, McGuire began walking toward him in an aggressive fashion.
Knowing that McGuire had been in the military, Nienaber said he felt it was necessary to use a defensive tactic he recently learned during law enforcement training. He said that’s why he grabbed McGuire by the front of his shirt and told him to move to the front of a truck, where he would be away from the young volunteers.
The incident involves Nienaber’s duel roles as both town marshal and Elizabethtown fire chief during the medical emergency in the 300 block of West Pennsylvania Street.
Incident logs maintained by Bartholomew County 911 state the purpose of the 11:45 p.m. medical call was either a drug overdose or poison.
“When I went down there, it was a drug overdose,” Nienaber said.
McGuire claims a similar incident involving Nienaber took place last June during an earlier medical emergency after the same brother, 25, collapsed from heat stroke in the front yard.
Issac McGuire alleges that after he flagged down Nienaber while crying hysterically, the marshal got out of his vehicle, slammed him on the hood of a car, told him to shut up and placed him in handcuffs.
Nienaber recalled the incident differently.
He said the incident in June was his first trip to the
McGuire residence, and he was having trouble identifying the correct residence because house numbers in Elizabethtown frequently are not in numerical order.
“As I was looking for the house in my role as a firefighter, this hysterical guy comes out and smacks the hood of my car, yelling and screaming,” Nienaber recalled. “I asked him what the problem was, but before I got an answer, there were all these other people running around acting the same way. ... It was utter chaos.”
Nienaber said he handcuffed McGuire “for my safety and his.”
Once it was established that Nienaber was at the residence he was trying to find, and that the ailing brother was getting medical attention, Nienaber said he removed the handcuffs and set McGuire free.
Nienaber said he believes details in the complaint were exaggerated.
McGuire said the only reason he did not file a complaint regarding the incident last June was that he was only 17 at the time and didn’t want to drag his mother into a legal battle.
“Now, I want it recognized,” McGuire said.
However, records appearing last summer in The Republic show a May 28 arrest for illegal consumption and a Aug. 6 arrest on a court warrant that both listed Issac McGuire’s age as 19 at the time.
They indicate McGuire will turn 20 on April 29.
Those records also show that either Columbus police officers or Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies were sent to the residence at least five times last year for non-medical reasons.
Sheriff’s Department Detective Kevin Abner investigated the March incident and sent his findings to Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash.
Seeking to avoid potential appearance of impropriety that could arise when an elected officer of the court is asked to consider prosecuting an elected law enforcement official, Nash said Monday he will ask Superior Court II Judge Kitty Coriden to appoint an out-of-county prosecutor to handle the matter.
The appointment of the special prosecutor is expected to be made within two weeks, Nash said.