BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — After a woman spurned his offer to “live underground,” a man made good on the promise and spent nine hours in Bloomington’s storm drain system in an attempt to evade police investigating claims he threw a hatchet at people in a nearby park, court documents allege.

It ended in an hourslong ordeal that involved the Indiana State Police SWAT team and the Bloomington Police Department’s Critical Incident Response Team.

Sexual assault incident

According to a probable cause affidavit, police were first alerted of 37-year-old Eli Swartzentruber’s activity on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at around 8:30 a.m. when a woman told police he sexually assaulted her just two hours earlier.

The woman says Swartzentruber showed up at her makeshift cabin on W. Koontz Road at 6:30 a.m. and asked her if she would leave with him to go “live underground.”

When she told him no, the woman told investigators Swartzentruber pulled out a machete and told her he would be back in ten minutes.

Upon his return, Swartzentruber asked the woman if she “was ready” and started packing her things, court documents allege.

The man told the woman he had to hurry to return a stolen truck back before sunrise, and she said he had a chilling response when she told him she did not want to go to jail.

“I’ll bail you out, break you out. And the police will have to take me down dead before they take me because I got this,” Swartzentruber reportedly said while holding the machete.

The woman told police Swartzentruber then squeezed her neck, forcibly tried to kiss her, took his pants off, and stuffed cash down her shirt.

The woman said she told Swartzentruber she had to go outside to use the bathroom in an attempt to get rid of him. As she left, the woman said she grabbed her bag and Swartzentruber’s pants to hopefully slow him down if he went after her.

By the time police were contacted and arrived to the scene, Swartzentruber was gone. But he would reportedly cross paths with authorities just a short time later.

Battery at the park

Around 9:30 a.m., police were alerted of an incident at Seminary Park. A man with a hatchet was threatening people to fight, an incident report reads.

When officers arrived, a man with a hatchet laid the weapon down and approached them. He told police the suspect attacked him and threw the hatchet at him. He pointed police toward a truck in a nearby Kroger parking lot and said that the suspect got the hatchet from inside the vehicle.

When police ran the license plate number, Eli Swartzentruber came up as the registered owner, court documents state.

A few other people in the park told investigators Swartzentruber attacked them as well and swung a metal rod at them. One witness said Swartzentruber told him he had a “red dot” on his forehead, indicating he was pointing a gun at him that had a target system. Although he did not see a gun, the man told police he feared for his life.

Taking cover in the storm drain

Investigators found clothes matching Swartzentruber’s description near a storm drain and determined he had entered the city’s underground sewer system.

When they made contact with him, Swartzentruber warned he had a rifle and would shoot which led to a multi-agency response.

After multiple flashbangs, a destroyed city camera, and nine hours of negotiations, Swartzentruber was taken into custody.

Swartzentruber in custody (courtesy of Rainer Baker)

Based on all of the events of Tuesday, September 20, he was charged with:

  • Sexual battery (Incident #1)
  • Residential entry (Incident #1)
  • Battery resulting bodily injury (Incident #1)
  • Battery by means of a deadly weapon (Incident #2)
  • Intimidation (Incident #2)

Prosecutors are treating the two incidents as separate cases.