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COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — United Kingdom-based cabinet hardware maker Titus Group has acquired the assets of Precision Plastics, a longtime plastics fabricator in Columbia City. The Whitley County Economic Development Corp. says Titus will invest an additional $7 million to add new product lines at the facility, such as metal diecasting.

“We have looked at opportunities to onshore more of our manufacturing in the United States for quite some time,” said Titus Group North America Chief Executive Officer Matthew Hurley. “The introduction of Titus Group’s proprietary zinc metal and automation capabilities will now enable us to develop a wider range of customer specific solutions locally.”

The plant, which will operate as Titus Precision, currently employs 45 workers and Titus says it will add 35 more workers over the next several years.

Precision Plastics brings over 60 years of manufacturing experience and a long history supplying the automotive sector.
According to Whitley EDC, Titus Group provided over three billion connectors and hardware components to the global furniture, kitchen and appliance industries in 2021. It supplies components to IKEA and Sauder Furniture in Ohio.

“The addition of Precision Plastic’s experienced plastic engineering team to the Titus Group’s current US logistics center and customer support staff which have been established in the Midwest for many years enables us to introduce new products from new processes and enhance our delivery capabilities to all our North American customers,” said Titus Group Chairman Robert Appleby.

Whitley EDC president Dale Buuck made a formal request for a tax phase-in for Titus. He says the Columbia City Common Council approved a tax abatement on the new equipment being purchased and installed.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership has hired an executive recruiting firm to help the organization find its next president and chief executive officer. The economic development partnership has also chosen an eight-member committee to lead the search, following the departure of former CEO John Sampson.

Sampson, who led the organization for 15 years, announced in February he was stepping down. His last day was March 31.

The partnership has hired recruiting firm Waverly Partners to help find potential candidates for the job.

The search committee is working to finalize the position description and timeline and plans to begin the recruiting process immediately.

“The organization is now recognized as a leader in the state and nation, and it’s crucial to select the right leader to carry forward the mission and vision of the organization,” said Sherilyn Emberton, regional partnership governing board chair and president of Huntington University.

Below is the list of committee members:

Mark Millett, Steel Dynamics Inc., search committee chair and Governing Board vice-chair
Bill Bradley, LaGrange County Economic Development Corp.
Ellen Cutter, Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Brian Emerick, Micropulse
David Findlay, Lake City Bank
Kristin Marcuccilli, STAR Financial Bank
Mayor Steve McMichael, City of New Haven
Edmond O’Neal, Northeast Indiana Works

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) — The Whitley County community on Wednesday gathered to mourn and honor a fallen sheriff’s department K-9.

K-9 Cas died in the line of duty Wednesday after a suspect fleeing police crashed into the police cruiser she was sitting in, causing it to burst into flames.

Whitley County Sheriff’s K9 Cas

The sheriff’s department said her handler, Officer Gary Archbold, had deployed stop sticks at the intersection of U.S. 30 and C.R. 450 West to bring the chase to an end, but the suspect drove across both eastbound lanes of U.S. 30 and into the crossover where Archbold’s cruiser was parked with K-9 Cas inside.

The sheriff’s department said K-9 Cas was trapped in the cruiser and died at the scene. Archbold was not hurt.

A week after her death, fellow officers and members of the community gathered to honor K-9 Cas at the First Church of God in Columbia City.

K-9 Cas joined the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department in April 2017. She served with the sheriff’s department and the Columbia City Police Department.

“K9 Cas’s service directly attributed to the betterment and safety of the Whitley County community,” the sheriff’s department said Thursday.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) More than 20 people, including inmates, police officers and the Whitley County sheriff, were sent to a local hospital Monday after they were exposed to heroin in the booking area of the Whitley County Jail.

Around 12:30 p.m., jailers found a “substance” on a woman who was being processed into the jail in the intake section. The substance reportedly contaminated the area and affected the confinement officers, police officers and inmates in the area.

Everyone in the area – 24 people in total – were sent to the hospital. Officials told 24-Hour News 8’s sister station WANE that Whitley County Sheriff Marcus Gatton was among those sent to the hospital.

There were no major medical issues associated with the contamination, officials said. The two major complaints were rashes and red eyes.

On Tuesday, police said the “substance” was heroin.

Indiana State Police were also on the scene. ISP Spokesperson Sgt. Ron Galaviz said a state trooper arrested two people, a 52-year-old man from Chicago and a 44-year-old woman from Chicago, on U.S. 30 and Wolf Road in Whitley County after they were caught going more than 100 miles per hour.

He said when the female was brought to jail she was being patted down by a female confinement officer. While that was happening Galaviz said at least one baggie of a white powdery substance found on the female inmate somehow opened up and contaminated the air. Police are still investigating how exactly the contamination happened.

Galaviz said the identities of the inmates are not being released now because ISP’s investigation is ongoing.

Several firefighters along with a Fort Wayne Fire team and the Fort Wayne Allen County Regional Hazardous Materials Response team were called to the jail to handle the situation. A cleaning crew was also called in.

By 6 p.m., the jail was operational and open, officials said.

West Market Street and Main Street in front of the jail were closed to traffic while officials worked.

WHITLEY COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — A South Whitley family doctor has been arrested and charged with six felonies related to dealing “substantial sums” of prescription drugs without a medical need.

Dr. James E. Hanus surrendered to authorities in Whitley County on Wednesday. Hanus faces four counts of Dealing in a Schedule 2 Controlled Substance and two counts of Dealing in a Controlled Substance by a Practitioner.

(Provided booking photo shows Dr. James E. Hanus)

According to a release from the Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office, Hanus had been under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police and the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit for more than 2 1/2 years. Prosecutors said Hanus “dealt substantial sums of controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose” from August 2012 until October 2016.

It was then – early October 2016 – when DEA agents raided Hanus’s secluded South Whitley home and clinic. The Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office said after those raids that federal agents and state law enforcement agencies had been investigating Hanus for two years.

After that, Hanus voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration, which prohibits him from prescribing or possessing controlled substances.

On the door of Hanus’s South Whitley clinic, a sign was posted Wednesday that indicates the “office is now closed.” The sign directs patients to complete a medical records release form and mail it or fax it.

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CHURUBUSCO, Ind. (WANE) — The founder of Mike’s Express Carwash, Edward M. Dahm was killed when the small SUV he was driving collided head-on with a charter bus along U.S. 33 north of Churubusco Thursday morning. 17 other people were hospitalized, including one who was left in critical condition.

Police and medics were called around 11:15 a.m. Thursday to U.S. 33 and Blue Lake Road north of Churubusco on a report of a crash. Dispatchers would only confirm “there was a bus crash” that involved “multiple vehicles and multiple injuries.”

A Barons Bus coach was left heavily damaged and off the roadway. Another vehicle, a small white Lexus SUV, could be seen on its top on the other side of the roadway. The two appeared to have hit head-on.

A source at the scene said initially there were roughly 50 patients.

As of now, an adult male was killed. Parkview’s Samaritan medical helicopter landed at the scene around 11:45 a.m. Duane Ginder, EMS Manager at Parkview Whitley, said it airlifted another person away in critical condition. Sixteen others were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries, Ginder said.

A dog was also killed, officials said.

A triage base was established at the Smith Township Fire Department.

A Barons Bus official would not comment on the crash. There were 42 people aboard. Passengers said the bus was headed to Columbus, Ohio, from Chicago, with its next scheduled stop in Fort Wayne.

U.S. 33 at Blue Lake Road was closed in both directions, officials said.