‘Error’ leads to guns drawn in Bloomington teen’s traffic stop

Photo courtesy WISH-TV

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — Evan Lute’s Twitter page is full of razzing by his friends. A popular hashtag is #freelutes.

The 16-year-old Bloomington High School South sophomore was never in jail. But he was in handcuffs. His near arrest has drawn a lot of attention in recent days after he was involved in a felony traffic stop that he says ended with guns drawn by Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies.

On his Twitter, he wrote about it, saying: “Starting my year off by getting pulled over by 8 cops, being hand cuffed (sic) and being at gun point…”

It turns out, the incident was all a mistake.

According to court records, a Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy first ran Lute’s license plate after he made “an abrupt turn.” The narrative goes on to explain how the sheriff’s deputy later conducted a “felony traffic stop” after confirming the plate was stolen with dispatchers.

“They informed me that they did in fact receive a stolen vehicle hit, showing that the plate belonged to a vehicle that was stolen out of Gary, Indiana and was stolen off a Buick vehicle,” Sgt. Chad Liersch wrote in his initial report.

After pulling Lutes over, court records show that he complied with the deputies’ commands, keeping his hands in sight until authorities could handcuff him. It was only after Sgt. Liersch asked dispatchers to run the vehicle identification numbers that officer realized the VINs did not match.

Lutes was let go and his mother was informed of the incident, Liersch’s report states.

“It became clear there may be some kind of miscommunication with the BMV,” Liersch wrote. “Upon further investigation, it was determined that the plates were reported stolen in 2011 and that it was likely a BMV error that resulted in the number of the stolen license plate being re-issued to Mr. Lutes.”

But BMV spokesman Josh Gillespie took exception with that saying: “This is not a BMV story, it’s about aggressive law enforcement. They had the information in front of them.”

Gillespie went on to explain that “when the officer ran the plate number through IDACS (state police database), the report indicated ‘warning – the following vehicle record contains expired plate data.’ The report also indicated that the stolen vehicle in question was a 1992 Buick Lesabre. IDACS also returned current BMV registration information showing that the plate number in question is currently registered to a black 2005 Buick Rainier.”

Gillespie also noted that in 2011, Indiana plates would have had a blue background, unlike the current white and yellow bicentennial plates that the BMV began to issue in 2013.

Evan  Lutes and his parents declined to comment with 24-Hour News 8, saying they planned to meet with Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain before making any public statements.

Swain issued a lengthy statement, that read in part:

“Law enforcement protocol is to consider a stolen vehicle stop to be a “high risk” event; as the circumstances surrounding the theft are not known. Specific procedures are followed to ensure officer safety, and the occupants within a suspected stolen vehicle. I am scheduled to meet with the parents soon, and will listen to their concerns and discuss the matter in detail,” Swain said in a statement.

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