MUNCIE, Ind. — Earlier this week, the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the case against a man accused of trying to disarm a Muncie police officer during a traffic stop more than three years ago.
Lorenzo A. Reyes, of Muncie, now 22-years-old, faced five charges stemming from the incident in the early morning hours of June 5, 2018.
Reyes was charged with disarming a law enforcement officer, a level 5 felony, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a level 6 felony, domestic battery, resisting law enforcement, and battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, three misdemeanor charges.
On Thursday, a Delaware County judge granted the state’s motion to dismiss the case, dropping all charges against Reyes, who said he has maintained his innocence since day one.
“I was actually relieved that the truth came out,” said Reyes. He said at the time of his arrest, “I realized that I’m a civilian and they’re police officers, so my word really doesn’t stand against theirs.”
“He was taught that, tell the truth. From day one, he told us the truth and I believed him and my husband believed him,” said his mother, Elida Reyes.
Reyes’ attorney, Mario Massillamany said the dismissal of charges proves his client’s innocence they had been fighting for, while prosecutors argue it was “in the best interest of justice.”
“Mr. Reyes counsel did not get the case dismissed nor does he have knowledge of why the State chose to dismiss the case,” said Delaware County prosecuting attorney, Eric Hoffman. “When the State of Indiana or the prosecutor dismisses a case that’s not saying a person is not guilty.”
Hoffman said there are three major reasons his office requested the charges be dismissed against Reyes.
He said they were unable to locate a witness in regard to the domestic battery count. “She’s an essential witness to the case and without her testimony we couldn’t prove the case in court,” said Hoffman. Additionally, he said there was not sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
The third factor, Hoffman said, “We also had the issue of a police officer who has pled guilty to falsifying reports, not on this case, but on some other case.”
The case in reference also occurred on the same day as Reyes’ arrest.
According to court documents, former officer Dalton Kurtz failed to reveal then-fellow officer, Chase Winkle, used excessive force during a separate incident. Documents say Kurtz concealed that information by producing a report with false information.
Kurtz resigned from the department in mid-May after agreeing to plead guilty to the charges in April.
“If this case were to go to trial, if we did have the evidence at hand, we would have to put that officer on the stand. That is what we call a crime of dishonesty,” said Hoffman.
Reyes’ attorney claims there are other reasons besides the three factors cited, as to why the case was dropped. Massillamany maintains he provided evidence to the prosecutor’s office of at least one witness report that was falsified.
“They should be proud of the fact that they reviewed the evidence that I provided to them, their investigation, and they dismissed the case because the officers did something wrong and there wasn’t enough evidence to convict my client on any of these five charges,” said Massillamany.
Hoffman disputed Massillamany’s comment.
“The fact of the matter is that we have no information that any witness statement or any information is false in this case, and that was not the reason for which it was dismissed.”
Nathan Sloan, chief of police for the Muncie Police Department, also responded to Massillamany’s claim a false witness statement was drawn-up by an officer.
“The allegation that a fraudulent voluntary form was filed is false. Officer Kurtz took a statement from two individuals involved in the case. The first statement is recorded on body camera and is written by the individual,” said Sloan. He said the second statement was taken at the hospital by Kurtz.
“Kurtz wrote down the statement as the individual told him the story. After the individual was finished, Officer Kurtz appropriately read the statement back to the individual who then signed it,” he said. “This interaction was captured on Officer Kurtz’s body camera and what Officer Kurtz wrote down matches what he read back to the individual prior to it being signed.”
Massillamany says no dash cameras or body cameras were turned on until after his client was arrested. He said he watched the footage, provided to the counsel as part of discovery.
“After my client was taken into custody, that’s the only time they had any video,” said Massillamany. “They have no video evidence of the crimes committed, even though it’s Muncie Police Department’s job to make sure that when they arrive at the scene to have their dash cams and body cams on.”
Sloan said the statement about body cameras not being turned on is inaccurate, and Hoffman claimed electronic records show Reyes’ counsel never watched the footage in the first place.
Massillamany argues against that statement, saying it is not true.
Sloan said Officer Kurtz documented that he was unsuccessful in an attempt to activate his body camera prior to interacting with Reyes. According to his statement, another officer arrived at the scene during the alleged struggle between Kurtz and Reyes, and “had a functioning body camera.”
“The footage depicts Reyes running from and struggling with Officer Kurtz prior to the second officer getting close enough to assist in effecting the arrest,” Sloan wrote.
Due to contradicting statements of what the footage depicts as it relates to the now-dismissed filing, FOX59 has filed a public records request with the city of Muncie, requesting a copy of all body camera and dash camera footage in the arrest of Reyes.
We will update the story once a response is received.
With the case now dismissed, Reyes said he is looking forward to resuming a ‘normal’ life and being able to look forward to welcoming a son into the world in just a few months with his fiancé.
“Honestly I did not expect to get in trouble after high school. I had high ambitions to be something and start a career,” he said. “It slowed me down, so like the first job after I got out of trouble they actually sent me my paperwork, my thick paperwork, with every charge on it, basically to say we’re not hiring you because of your background.”
“I hadn’t even been charged yet. It was just pending, so I automatically just felt like, I’m a felon and this’ll just be the rest of my life until I can get out of trouble. I was mentally stressed out from the beginning,” he shared.
Reyes’ mother said the last three years have been emotionally tolling on the rest of the family as well.
“It’s been a very traumatic three years for us as a family, seeing our son not be able to get a job. Not be able to do anything for three years,” she said.
“That was his first time ever being in trouble at 19, so he was arrested June 5th and everything just ended June 10. I mean, it’s been three years of his life… it wasn’t just his life it was ours. We’re a family.”
Reyes had a job interview on Friday, one day after it was announced that charges had been dropped against him.
“We can’t change what’s happened, we have to move forward,” said Elida.