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TIPTON, Ind. (WISH) — Tipton County had the highest positivity rate of cases in all of central Indiana last week.

It came as federal health officials warned about a new phase of coronavirus.

“It is extraordinarily widespread,” said Dr. Deborah Birx with the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “It’s into the rural as equal as urban areas. To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.”

If you come to Tipton’s Main Street, you’ll find a place where military veterans are honored with photos on banners hung on light poles outside the courthouse, the tallest building for miles around.

County resident David Sutton said he’s not too worried about the coronavirus. Still, he put on his mask before walking into a restaurant to pick up dinner.

“It’s also important that we protect each other,” Sutton said.

He’s got four children, including one with acute asthma.

That’s why Sutton especially doesn’t want to bring the coronavirus home, but he admits he wears his mask mostly out of respect for businesses. Many in downtown Tipton have signs on the door requiring masks.

“Just going to do what’s asked of me,” Sutton said. “If you want me to wear a mask into your business, I’ll wear a mask. I’m not going to go out of my way to wear one, but I do want to make sure I’m compliant because I’m not disrespectful.”

Tipton County has just 16,000 residents, with about a third living in the city of Tipton.

Last week, more than 15% of coronavirus tests here were positive.

“I think it was a wake-up call. We were patting ourselves on the back,” said Mayor Thomas Dolezal. “I think we may have been lulled into believing that it was something that was going to pass over small-town America but I think our numbers here within the last couple of weeks have shown were not exempted from the issue.”

Dolezal said for months he’s been trying to get the message out about social distancing and wearing a mask, all the while being careful to be a good example to others.

He said in some ways the data as well as the warning from Birx were not surprises, no matter the size of the population.

“It is an issue. It’s not going to pass us by. We’re going to have the same type of challenges large communities have,” Dolezal said.

But a different viewpoint comes from County Commission President Jim Mullins.

“It don’t scare me,” Mullins said.

While he believes social distancing and masks are important, he thinks this virus should be treated more like other pandemics he’s seen in his lifetime. He’s especially worried about the financial toll it’s having on businesses.

“They’re scaring people to death,” Mullins said. “It’s obviously serious. We’ve treated it seriously but I’m not sure it’s everything they’re making it out to be.”

Those like Sutton believe when you see the flowers, the banners and the quiet streets, it’s just a little easier to forget what’s going on elsewhere as well as right in the middle of Main Street.

“Yeah, because everyone is carrying on like their usual days,” Sutton said.

There was some positive news Monday for Tipton County. Its rolling 7-day average of positive tests dropped and stands at 13.9%. Compare that to Marion County’s 7-day average positivity rate on Tuesday of 9%.

Currently, state health officials said five counties statewide have positive test rates over the benchmark 15%. The only one in xentral Indiana is Grant County, which includes Marion, which is at 16.2%.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – A Purdue University-affiliated solar company is working to help farms cut down on expenses. Emergent Solar Energy, headquartered at the Purdue Research Park, has installed a ground-mounted solar array on a Tipton County farm to help reduce its carbon footprint and energy costs.

The university says farmers across the United States are dealing with financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Purdue says the 124-kilowatt solar array at Harlow Farms will supply 90% of the annual electricity needs of the entire farm facility and is the largest on-farm solar project in the county.

“Every morning a potential energy source rises over the horizon to the east of my farm,” said Will Harlow, owner of the farm. “It seemed a waste to not harness this daily free energy source, erasing some of what I take from the grid. The solar components’ being made in the United States was also important to me. I hope if any positive comes from this pandemic, it is that we must do what we can to get production of all kinds returning to America.”

Emergent says solar power is offsetting the energy load of the hog barns and grain storage system.

“This project was complex with four grid-tied meters, complete electrical service upgrade, and the use of directional boring as opposed to trenching,” said Jeremy Lipinski, managing partner of Emergent. “We had to balance the economics with the project aesthetics, and I feel as if we accomplished our goal.”

Emergent says it provides solar solutions to the commercial and industrial, municipal and agricultural sectors across the Midwest.

CENTRAL INDIANA, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – The American Red Cross has named Britt Sutton the new executive director for its Central Indiana Chapter. Sutton previously served as the director of policy for the Indiana Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services, specializing in administrative law and policy composition for the Indiana Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waiver programs.

Sutton has worked as an Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and focused in healthcare and non-profit law and advocacy while pursuing her juris doctorate.

Since March of 2018, she has served as the associate director of the Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

“I’m elated to have Britt join our Red Cross team as our Central Indiana executive director,” said Chad Priest, regional chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, Indiana Region. “She brings a wealth of experience in public policy, healthcare law, nonprofit law and advocacy, and will be a strong asset to our mission as we continue building resilient communities.”

The American Red Cross Central Indiana Chapter serves Tippecanoe, Clinton, Howard, Tipton, Madison, Hamilton, Boone, Montgomery, Putnam, Hendricks, Henry, Hancock, Rush, Shelby, Johnson and Morgan Counties. 

Sutton will step in to her new role November 18.

TIPTON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – The new Tipton Solar Park is officially open. The solar park is located on 31 acres of land and houses 17,496 solar panels that are estimated to produce an  annual amount of energy to power about 800 homes. 

Officials say the park will operate on a single axis tracking system. The system allows the solar panels to move throughout the day following the path of the sun.

Tipton is one of 18 Indiana Municipal Power Agency member communities to have a solar park, including Advance, Anderson, Argos, Bainbridge, Crawfordsville, Flora, Frankton, Greenfield, Huntingburg, Pendleton, Peru, Rensselaer, Richmond, Spiceland, Tell City, Washington, and Waynetown. 

The IMPA says it is constructing solar parks in Centerville, Crawfordsville, Darlington, Gas City, Richmond, and Scottsburg.

“This is an exciting day for Tipton,” commented Mayor Don Havens.  “Not only will this solar park provide increased diversity in our generation resources, it will also serve as an excellent educational opportunity for our students, residents, and visitors, and is yet another community benefit to tout for quality of place and economic development purposes.” 

Tipton Mayor Don Havens, Representative Susan Brooks, Representative Tony Cook, and personnel from the offices of Senator Mike Braun joined with Indiana Municipal Power Agency Executive Vice President and COO Jack Alvey and city and county council personnel to cut the ribbon and celebrate the milestone in the community Monday.

TIPTON, Ind. (WISH) – A Chicago man has been charged with attempted murder after shootings early Wednesday at a truck stop in Tipton County, police said. 

The shooting was reported about 6:50 a.m. Wednesday at Love’s Travel Plaza at the intersection of U.S. 31 and State Road 28. That is west of Tipton. 

Javier Thurman, 25, of Chicago, was arrested on two counts of attempted murder, a count of criminal recklessness and six other lesser counts, the Tipton County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. 

An investigation found a motorist, who was not identified, had parked at the fuel pumps and went inside to prepay for fuel. As he was in the store, the motorist saw his vehicle’s lights flash, police said, and then watched Thurman exit the vehicle. As the motorist approached, Thurman pulled out a .22-caliber handgun and fired twice at the motorist, police said. One bullet hit a knife in the motorist’s pocket. The injury did not require immediate medical attention. 

A news release from the department said Thurman then tried to get another motorist’s help to escape, but that motorist, who was not identified, declined. Thurman then fired another bullet that struck that motorist’s vehicle, police said. 

Thurman fled on foot until police caught him. 

The news release did not indicate a motive for the shootings. 

Anyone who witnessed the shooting was encouraged to call Deputy Jordan Wiseman of the sheriff’s department at 765-675-2111. 

TIPTON, Ind. (WISH) — Police are looking for someone who fired a gun into a home early Friday morning. 

It happened just before 2 a.m. in the 1600 block of S. Tipton County Road 25 West. A mobile home was shot at. There were people inside, and they are OK. 

In a Facebook post, detectives asked for any possible surveillance video of the area. 

Police obtained a photo of a car that may be of interest. 

Anyone with information was asked to call Tipton police at 765-675-1282.

MIDDLETOWN, Ind. (WISH) – A former Windfall man in an Indiana prison on burglary and theft charges has admitted to authorities that he committed a 2008 murder in Henry County, prosecutors said Thursday.

Dana R. Zirkel, 51, met with Henry County sheriff’s detective Ed Manning on April 13. Zirkel said he went Aug. 18, 2008, to rob the home of Michael and Macarena Patterson on County Road 950 North near Middletown. Zirkel said, during the burlgary, Michael arrived home and they got into a fight in the garage and the house, and Zirkel hit Michael with a crowbar.

“Mr. Zirkel advised that he was speaking to law enforcement because he could not have any peace in his life until he got this out,” said a news release from Henry County Prosecutor Joe Bergacs.

Macarena arrived home to find her husband slumped on the floor and breathing. Medics arrived and took Michael to a hospital, where he died. An autopsy found he died of blunt force trauma in a homicide.

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police investigated and developed Zirkel as a suspect but had been unable to completely connect him to the murder, so it became a cold case.

Zirkel is scheduled for an initial hearing Monday morning in Henry County.

Zirkel is in the Pendleton Correctional Facility on multiple charges including theft and burglary out of Tipton and Madison counties on sentences received in 2009 and 2010. His scheduled release date was 2022, according to a database.

SHARPSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – Sharpsville police are investigating a possible insurance scam that could make your home more vulnerable to burglaries. Police say a man has been taking photos of houses and claiming to work for a fake insurance company.

Police have been trying to track the man down and talk to him to see if he is doing legitimate work, but they haven’t had much luck. They say what they’ve heard from residents so far is very suspicious and they want people to be alert.

According to Sharpsville Police, a homeowner called 911 after a man came to the door claiming to be with an insurance company called Mutual Reliable Insurance. The man wanted to take pictures of the house, but the homeowner sensed something wasn’t right.

“He couldn’t provide any information and had no identification whatsoever. He had no paperwork,” said Town Marshal Ray Sheppard.

Sheppard says he’s also looked into the insurance company, and hasn’t been able to find one by that name.

“I’ve done research. I’ve reached out to people, they’ve never heard of this company,” said Sheppard.

He told 24-Hour News 8 at this point, he does not believe the man was working for an insurance company. He went on to say there have been numerous burglaries in Tipton County and he wants people to be vigilant.

“In this situation I think that it could be very dangerous. I don’t necessarily foresee that. I don’t want that, obviously, that’s why I put the information out as quick as I could,” said Sheppard.

There is only a vague description of the suspect. Police say he was driving a newer model of a dark gray four-door passenger car.

“I don’t want to put any insurance inspectors in harms way… but I think that you should be able to provide some kind of information so the homeowner feels more at ease,” said Sheppard.

Police say if someone comes to your door claiming to be with an insurance company ask them to provide credentials, or call your insurance company to verify that someone is supposed to be at your house.

UPDATE: Tipton County Sheriff’s Department confirmed just before 8 p.m. Sunday that Meadows had been found safe.

TIPTON, Ind. (WISH) — State police have issued a Silver Alert for a woman last seen in Tipton who they believe to be in extreme danger and require medical assistance.

Authorities are seeking help to locate 27-year-old Shainna R. Meadows, last seen on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. in Tipton driving a black 2017 Nissan Versa Indiana plate 940TDP.

Meadows is described as 5-feet-4, weighing 200 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, wearing a black blouse, blue jeans and flip-flops.

If you have any information about Meadows’ whereabouts, contact the Tipton County Sheriff’s Department at 765-675-2111 or dial 911.

TIPTON, Ind. (WISH) — Tipton police on Sunday night said they were investigating rumors of a threat against Tipton Community Schools and that they had found no credible evidence of a threat.

Authorities had interviewed 20-30 people about the matter and were encouraging people to send any mention of a threat or rumor of a threat to the police department directly rather than sharing those posts on social media, Officer Brad Robins with Tipton Police Department said.

Tipton police and Tipton Community Schools released similar statements on their Facebook pages Sunday, explaining that the rumor circulating alleged “a student will attempt to bring a firearm to school” and that parents and students could contact the Tipton Police Department with any information about the threats.

School was scheduled to be session on Monday, with local law enforcement on campus.