East Chicago 3rd District Councilman Robert “Coop” Battle spent Election Day in the Lake County Jail pending a murder charge.
He’s accused of shooting to death on Oct. 12 Reimundo Camarillo Jr., in the 4200 block of Euclid Avenue in East Chicago, according to court records.
He also faces a federal drug charge stemming from a traffic stop in Porter County where police found 73.22 grams of marijuana and $100,700 in cash.
Despite his pending legal battles that could take months if not years to sort out in the courts, Battle ran unopposed in Tuesday’s election.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Battle did not request an absentee ballot to vote from the jail.
Battle initially said through his then attorney, Walter Alvarez, that he shot Camarillo after Camarillo pulled a knife on him, according to the affidavit. As the conversations continued, Battle said there was no struggle before the shooting, according to court records.
On Tuesday, Lake County Criminal Judge Clarence Murray granted the state’s motion for a DNA mouth swab from Battle. According to their motion, prosecutors want to compare his DNA to evidence collected at the scene.
Battle is expected to appear in court again Nov. 17 seeking to get bail set in the case.
His attorney, John Cantrell, said he is offended by people who are calling for his client to resign.
“He is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty,” Cantrell said. “If he is acquitted, he’ll keep his job.”
East Chicago City Council members made $42,356 a year in 2014, more than five times the average salary of council members of 75 community governments, according to the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said Battle’s fate was in the hands of the courts and declined to comment further.
Cantrell said he will keep Battle informed about council business while he is in jail.
Buncich, who is also the county’s Democratic chairman, said he is embarrassed about Battle’s situation.
“The right thing to do at this time would be to resign, step aside so the East Chicago citizens in the third district can be represented properly,” Buncich said.
A few people have expressed interest in taking Battle’s seat, Buncich said. He is also talking to lawmakers to get state law changed to have elected officials removed from office once they are charged with a crime.
State law only requires elected officials who have been convicted of a felony to give up their office.
Voters at three polling places in East Chicago’s 3rd District did not seem convinced by the state’s case against their councilman. Many did not want to comment.
Standing outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, one woman, who did not want to identified, said she voted for Battle and thought he was being ambushed.
“I believe what he said, that the man was attacking him and he was defending himself,” she said.
The woman recalled Battle brought her food and water when her brother died.
A voter at the polling place in the 4900 block of Gladiola Avenue who also did not want to be identified described her councilman as a “good guy” who created a summer program for the children in her neighborhood.
The woman does worry about how her neighborhood will now be represented.
“How can he represent us when he’s facing his own issues,” she said.
The woman said she knows Battle’s and Camarillo’s family members.
“I sympathize with both sides,” she said. “They both lost someone.”
Source: NWI Times