Police make arrests, probe bomb scare surrounding downtown fireworks

Police: 2 men overheard discussing bombs

INDIANAPOLIS - Several arrests were reported as fights broke out and unruly crowds kept police busy during the downtown Indianapolis Freedom Blast fireworks festival on Thursday night.

Call 6 Investigators cameras were rolling as a crowd of at least 18 teenagers was detained by a large squad of police just one block away from the Indiana Statehouse just before the fireworks were set off at 10 p.m.

Police said officers stopped the group after a fight on the nearby canal, and as one teenager was detained, officers found he was carrying a gun.  He was arrested, as officers said he was illegally carrying the weapon and the serial number had been filed off the pistol.

“We’ve had at least 3 or 4 arrests in this area,” said Indianapolis Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons. “We moved in very quickly.  We have what are called event response group teams.”

The officers surrounded the detained male and female youth, with several officers holding “pepper ball” guns that are used to fire a sort of tear gas. None of the officers actually fired any chemical balls during the arrest.

Less than 30 minutes after that group was detained, officers got another report of a disturbance with a weapon just one block away. A teenage boy ran directly past the police command post, which was set up outside the Statehouse, where officers tackled and arrested him.

Coons said it was unclear whether he had a weapon on him at the time of his arrest.

Miles away from the Freedom Blast festival, undercover police surrounded a hotel off Interstate 465 on the south side of Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon when a guest reported two middle eastern men discussing a bomb or explosions.

When police arrived to question the men, officers wrote in their report that one was a Saudi Arabian national who stated he was a student.  Police found several aerial photos and diagrams of the Indiana Statehouse and the downtown Freedom Blast festival area. Some of the photos and maps were printed directly off the Indy.gov/ website, officers said.

Coons declined to discuss details of that case, saying it was still an active investigation.  However, he did say, “It’s always good to investigate all that and check to make sure that nothing was meaning that anybody was going to hurt anyone.”

He said the citizen’s report and the police response never yielded any indication of a ‘credible threat’ against the downtown Indianapolis fireworks event.

Several hundred people carried coolers and backpacks into the concert area in a couple downtown parks, where private security guards were seen checking coolers, backpacks and even purses.

“They checked everything,” said visitor Kasie McMannis, who arrived with her two girls. “It’s a little bit ridiculous. They wanted to know what was in my water bottle,” she said.

Her 11-year-old daughter, however, said it helped to make her feel safe at the event.

Coons said police were counting on the public to notify police if they saw any backpacks unattended or abandoned. He credited the same vigilance by citizens for reporting the suspicious bomb talk at the south side motel.

“It puts more work on us, but that’s what we’re here for. We’re here so everybody can have a good time and be safe,” he said.

The men who were questioned by police were not arrested, but undercover officers were seen watching over the area surrounding that hotel for much of the afternoon.

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