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Police officer fired from job after outcry over arrest of teenager

Officer fired from job after arrest of teen girl

SOUTH WHITLEY, Ind. (WISH) — On Jan. 24, 18-year-old high school senior Vivian Augustus was pulled over by South Whitley Police Department Officer Brian Schimmel.

She pulled into a gas station in the small town of South Whitley, which is west of Fort Wayne. A little more than 1,800 people call it home.

Augustus’s family, through a court subpoena, got the gas station surveillance footage and video from the officer’s bodycam. Just over a week ago, the family released all the video publicly.

In the video, 16 seconds after starting to talk to Schimmel, the officer opens the driver-side door of the car Augustus was in. After a little more than a minute of talking with the door open, Schimmel rips Augustus out of the car and throws her to the ground at the gas station to arrest her.

The bodycam video shows Augustus in the back of the officer’s squad car. Schimmel explains to Augustus why he pulled her over and arrested her.

The officer said, “You were pulled over for your speed and your headlight, OK? Your speed was 37 in a 30. Not that big of a deal, and your headlight was out on your driver’s side. Pulling you over to let you know. If you had just given me your license and your registration like I asked you to do, you would have gone away with a warning tonight; but, however, since you decided to pull this right here, where you don’t want to comply, you don’t want to give me your ID, you think you’re going to run the scene, you’re now going to jail. Do you understand?”

“I was trying to give you my ID,” Augustus responded.

“You were not. How many times did I ask you?” Schimmel asked.

“I was getting out my ID,” Augustus said.

“You were not. I’ve got a bodycam on. It’ll show you not pulling your ID out. When I ask you step out of the vehicle you step out of the vehicle. You don’t get to sit there and tell me how I’m going to do my job. You understand,” Schimmel said.

The officer’s bodycam was not recording during the first part of the traffic stop, and was only turned on after Augustus was on the ground. Her ID can be seen within arms’ reach of her on the ground while she’s being arrested.

Augustus was charged with refusal to identify herself, resisting arrest, and speeding. The resisting arrest charge was later dropped, but a trial was set for October for her to fight the charge of failing to identify herself, a misdemeanor.

Her dad, Brent Augustus, was shocked when he found our she had been arrested. “She’s a captain of her show choir. She’s a part of the Columbia City High School EMT (emergency medical technician) training program. She volunteers at church and youth leadership programs, and she’s wanting to study political science and prelaw.”

Dad agreed that what the officer had alleged did not fit his daughter’s character.

The Augustus family hired a lawyer and were patient for months, thinking the prosecutor was going to drop the charges. “We had trusted the system to work and the prosecutor, as well as our town council, just failed at every step,” Brent Augustus said.

So, the family released the video to the public.

The backlash was swift and quick.

The Town Council initially released a statement saying the interaction between Schimmel and Augustus was flawed but not worthy of his dismissal from his job.

Seven days after the family released the video, Whitley County Prosecutor Daniel Sigler dropped the charges against Vivian Augustus. Sigler tells I-Team 8 that the main reason for dropping the charges was because Schimmel would not have been credible on the stand.

The same day the charges were dropped, Schimmel was fired from the South Whitley Police Department.

Workers in the town office tell I-Team 8 they have been getting threatening phone calls and messages since the video was released.

A statement from the town said, “Due to public safety, Officer Brian R.P. Schimmel is no longer with the South Whitley Police Department.”

In the wake of its victory, the Augustus family wants to see improvements in policing in their town. Brent Augustus said, “I would like to see better policies in place for background checks on police officers coming into our community and other communities. I would like to see better training requirements for the police officers coming out of the academy down in Indy. I would like to see continuing education in place that they have to clock a certain number of hours.”

With the charges official behind her, Vivian Augustus has turned her focus toward deciding which college she will attend in the fall.