Two IMPD officers arrested on battery charges in bar fight, police chief calls case “disturbing”

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John Serban (left) and Michael Reiger (right)

UPDATE: Officers Michael Reiger and John Serban were found not guilty in November 2016 following their trial in this case

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 10, 2014) – Two Indianapolis Metropolitan police officers face charges after an Aug. 7 off-duty incident.

John Serban, 40, and Michael Reiger, 46, have been suspended without pay, pending termination. IMPD said Serban is a 16-year veteran while Reiger is a 15-year veteran. They’re charged with battery resulting in serious bodily injury and battery with moderate bodily injury after an altercation at Mikie’s Pub, a south side bar located at 5135 S. Emerson Ave.

IMPD Special Investigations Unit detectives arrested the pair without incident, and both were taken to the Arrestee Processing Center.

According to court documents, the two were drinking while off duty at the bar when a 29-year-old man refused to leave the pub. The officers confronted him, and one of them showed him a badge. He failed to comply. Thinking the badge wasn’t real, he threw it on the floor.

A fight ensued; Serban put the man in a choke hold and held him that way for about a minute, according to surveillance video from the encounter. Both officers continued to hit the man even after he was unconscious, according to court documents.

In video of the incident, the man—face down and apparently unconscious— is dragged out of the bar and across the parking lot, a distance of about 50 feet. A bartender said the man was belligerent before the fight but didn’t feel threatened by him.

The victim had a hemorrhage in his eye and marks on his neck from the choke hold. He also had a footprint on his face and “road rash” from being dragged across the pavement.

The choke hold used in the incident is not standard IMPD practice, an IMPD academy instructor said, although it is taught at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

After dragging the man outside the bar, the officers didn’t call for medical help, returning to the bar to finish their drinks, court documents said. They didn’t arrest the man or contact an off-duty officer or superior.

The man also said he was missing $180 from his wallet and Oakley sunglasses. He contacted police days after the incident to report the theft and alleged assault.

During a press conference Wednesday, IMPD Chief Rick Hite said, “Days like this make us wonder how we’ve lost our way.”

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