Police seeking charges against man who brought gun to polling place at elementary school

Michael Gard / Post-Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Munster Police are seeking charges against two individuals in the wake of a verbal altercation Tuesday at the Eads Elementary School polling place.

Police are seeking felony charges of bringing a weapon on school grounds against one individual, a two-time failed Republican candidate for Munster Town Council, for his role in the incident. Misdemeanor charges of intimidation are being sought after a second individual for his part in the altercation.

Sgt. Thomas Kuhlenschmidt said the charges are the result of the culmination of video from Eads Elementary School cameras, body camera footage and what he heard while on scene as the shift supervisor.

Kuhlenschmidt said the polling place had received two complaints from people coming to the polls about a person outside making comments about people being Marxists or communists if they said they were a Democrat.

The polling place inspector went outside and told the individual making the comments to people coming into the polls that they had to leave, he said.

Kuhlenschmidt said he does not have audio until after police arrive on the scene because the school cameras collect video only. When he viewed the video, he said he saw the inspector go out and tell the man to leave. The inspector’s hand gestures in the video support the claim.

At that time the man produced a red piece of paper showing his polling credentials. The inspector went back inside presumably to call the police, Kuhlenschmidt said.

While the inspector was inside, a private citizen who made one of the original complaints about the man confronted him. Kuhlenschmidt said he does not have audio, but both men testified they argued. In the video the second man can be seen stepping into the first man’s face with his hands behind his back and told the man he should have knocked him down when he first made the comment.

Kuhlenschmidt said the first man said he took the comments as a threat.

“He pulled back his jacket revealing a holstered firearm,” Kuhlenschmidt said. Both men ended up stepping away from one another. The elections inspector came back out at that time to separate the men. The individual went back to his car and the man with the credentials remained on the site.

“At no other time is the weapon displayed. He doesn’t put his hand on the weapon,” Kuhlenschmidt said.

Kuhlenschmidt said prior to seeking charges police had to determine if the man was legally entitled to carry the weapon. He previously served as a Gary Police officer from 1998 to 2002 and was Schnieder town marshal from 2002 to 2004. At some point he was hired as a police officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs and continued there until 2014.

He said the man with the weapon was initially identified as a member of the military police. However, military police are only allowed to carry weapons while on base unless they are part of a criminal investigative division. Weapons are prohibited by law on school grounds.

Charges of felony possession of a weapon on school grounds are being sought against the man with the gun and misdemeanor intimidation charges are being sought against the other individual . The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office was not able to update the status of the case Thursday by deadline.

Munster Police Chief Steve Scheckel said there is no call for this type of behavior.

“I want to make it clear to everybody this type of activity won’t be tolerated in the future at polling places,” Scheckel said.