UPDATE: Former Muncie Police Department Officer Chase Winkle officially pled guilty in court on Dec. 5. A sentencing hearing for Winkle has been set for 9 a.m. on March 3, 2023, in Indianapolis. Original story below.
MUNCIE, Ind. — A Muncie police officer has pleaded guilty in an excessive force lawsuit that says he unjustly punched, kicked and tasered arrestees and then lied about it in reports.
Chase Winkle, an officer with the Muncie Police Department who has been on unpaid leave since being arrested in 2020, pled guilty to 11 excessive force and false reporting charges Monday and was subsequently fired by the department.
The indictment filed in March 2020 against Winkle and 2 other MPD officers accused them of using unnecessary aggression against people they arrested and then working to cover it up within the department.
Court documents in the case detail the stories of 7 victims of Winkle’s abuse of power, including juveniles. As part of the plea deal, he agrees that all of the following is factual:
Knee bash and taser usage
On Aug. 9, 2018, Winkle used his knee to drop his body weight onto a man’s head, causing the man to yell out that “he crushed my face.” Another officer then held the man down, but Winkle told the officer to get up.
Winkle then tased the man while he was still on the ground.
The victim was not resisting arrest and had only verbally insulted Winkle prior to the incident, but Winkle later fabricated a report to justify force.
Another case cited in Winkle’s lawsuit involved a juvenile victim. Winkle and another MPD officer tried to pull over a car with two minors in it on June 5, 2018, when the car drove away.
Winkle and the other officer chased the car until the passengers got out on foot. Once the officer with Winkle tracked one of the juveniles down in a nearby lawn, the minor complied with commands and showed he did not have a weapon.
Still, Winkle then ran toward the juvenile on the ground, kicked him in the head, then got on his knees and punched and slapped him four times. The officer with Winkle said it was unreasonable and unjustified.
Knocking suspect unconscious
Winkle had earlier used excessive force in March 2018 when a person on a trespassing call was knocked unconscious.
According to court docs, Winkle ran toward a man who had his hands in the air and palms open. As the man began to get on the ground, Winkle kicked him in the midsection and sent the man tumbling backward into a chain link fence.
As the man began to steady himself against the fence, Winkle again kicked him. This time the kick landed on the man’s head, knocking him unconscious.
Winkle then later falsely filed a report saying the man came at him with closed fists and continued to resist after the first kick.
Breaching rights, punching arrestee
Later, in February 2019, Winkle fabricated evidence and assaulted a man during a traffic stop.
Winkle and another officer had stopped a car for minor traffic violations and requested an MPD canine. When the two were told a canine wasn’t available, Winkle said they could still pull the man out of the car because he was “reaching all around”.
While the man was leaving the car, he got caught on his seatbelt. Winkle immediately reacted by punching him in the face. Officers then tackled the man and handcuffed him.
After the man was restrained, Winkle used his knee to strike him in the torso four times. Winkle then later omitted this second use of force from his arrest report.
A hearing date has now been set for March 3, 2023, in Indianapolis. The maximum potential sentencing for Winkle given all of his charges would be 140 years in prison.