Officer recognized voice of student arrested in hostage hoax

VALAPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — A northwestern Indiana police officer who heard a tape of a man claiming to have taken hostages, prompting a lockdown of Valparaiso University, recognized his voice as that of his cousin, court documents say.

Dan Dickey heard a dispatcher say a name similar to that of Michael Clemens and asked investigators to play him a tape of the Chesterton man’s call to police. Dickey, a Porter police officer, then called Clemens’ mother, who said her son was at the university Tuesday night tutoring.

Clemens, 20, a Valparaiso University student, admitted his involvement in the hoax during questioning by investigators, according to a probable cause affidavit released Thursday.

Clemens faces felony charges of intimidation and false reporting. Online court records don’t show an attorney for him, and he could not be reached for comment because he doesn’t have a published telephone number. He has been released on bond.

The affidavit by Valparaiso police Capt. Jeff Balon said the man later identified as Clemens spoke to a dispatcher for at least 25 minutes and pretended to shoot someone by banging on a toilet stall.

The incident began about 7 p.m. Tuesday when a man called the non-emergency number of Valparaiso police and, since it was after business hours, was automatically transferred to the Porter County 911 Dispatch Center. When connected to a dispatcher, the caller said that he had taken at least two hostages in the Christopher Center for Library and Information Services and had access to an explosive.

The Porter County SWAT Team subsequently cleared the Christopher Center and found no injured person and no suspect.

Dickey, who was on duty, overheard scanner traffic about the incident and heard that the caller had apparently given his name as “Michael Commons,” the affidavit said. Dickey knew his cousin attended the university so arrangements were made for him to listen to the tape of the call, and he identified Clemens, the document said.

“Dickey described Clemens as a recluse, extremely quiet and distant. He added that Clemens suffers from depression, and he did not feel these actions would be outside the realm of possibility for Clemens,” the affidavit said.

Clemens was located in a different building at the university and taken into custody. He eventually “admitted to being the male subject who placed the telephone call,” according to Balon.

More than 50 officers and agents from federal, state, and local agencies responded to the incident. University officials called for students to “shelter in place.”

 

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