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Wanted man spits on deputies, requires multiple tasings and several officers to be arrested

La PORTE — A man already wanted on a warrant and found stumbling along a road near La Porte spit on two police officers, and required multiple tasings and the combined efforts of several officers to finally take him into custody, according to police.

Jonathan E. Alvarez, 26, of La Porte, is being held in the La Porte County jail facing two new felony counts each of battery to an officer by bodily waste, and battery against a public safety official, according to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department.

He also faces new misdemeanor counts of resisting law enforcement and making a false identity statement; and was wanted on a warrant charging theft, according to court records.

About 3:30 a.m. Friday, Sheriff’s Capt. Andy Hynek was on patrol when he saw a man “stumbling around” on the shoulder of the 3300 West block of Ind. 2 in Scipio Township, he wrote in his report.

He said the man was “talking to nobody and did not have any shoes or socks on.” He would not answer any questions and used only arm gestures.

The report said the man “appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic and/or alcohol, or was a mental health patient as he continued to stare off ... making motions as if he were having a conversation ... with someone who wasn’t there.”

When he began to walk away, the Hynek detained him in handcuffs for his own safety until two other deputies arrived to assist.

The suspect identified himself as Joseph Williams from Oregon, but the captain could not find that name in any databases. The suspect also said he was wanted, first in Oregon, but later in La Porte County, the report said.

When the man tried to walk away again toward traffic, he was placed in the front seat of a patrol vehicle for his own safety, the report said.

As the captain continued to search for the man on his computer, the man “turned his head to the right and spit directly into the face of Deputy Kasz Billings, who was standing next to the open window,” Hynek wrote.

The captain then drove off to take the man to the La Porte County Jail, but near Ind. 2 and Grand Avenue in La Porte, he “turned his head to the left and spit directly in my face,” he said in the report.

When the captain stopped the vehicle, the man “began violently kicking the dash and components around his seat.”

Billings entered the back seat of the vehicle to restrain him as Hynek ran around the car and opened the door.

The man began to kick Hynek and strike Billings, so he was tased, but it had “little effect on him,” the captain wrote.

“I tased Mr. Alvarez several more times with a ‘drive stun’ technique trying to get control of his legs, however this had no effect on him.”

Several officers from the La Porte City Police and another deputy arrived, but were unable to safely restrain him in the vehicle, so a jail paddy wagon was called to transport him.

“It took several officers to physically place the male into the paddy wagon for transport, where he continued to kick,” he wrote.

Ankle hobbles eventually had to be placed on him to stop him from kicking, the report said.

The man “was uncooperative with the jail staff” until the next afternoon, when he finally identified himself as Alvarez, and the warrant through La Porte Police was discovered, the report said.

Because he had spat into the officers’ faces and his high “level of uncooperativeness,” a search warrant was obtained for a blood draw to test for communicable diseases. This was for the officers’ safety, and possibly for enhanced charges if he had a disease, the report said.

Alvarez was taken to La Porte Hospital, where blood tests and nasal swabs were negative for Hepatitis B, AIDS and COVID-19, the report said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Alvarez remained in the jail, where he was being held without bond on the new charges. His next court appearance was scheduled for Friday in La Porte County Circuit Court.

His next appearance on the warrant, which stemmed from a May arrest in La Porte, is scheduled for June 22 in La Porte County Superior Court 3.

Alvarez was previously convicted of battery to a public safety official in February 2019, and sentenced to 6 months in jail and 12 months probation, and ordered to undergo mental health treatment, and an alcohol or substance abuse evaluation, according to court records.

– From staff reports

New La Porte restaurant serving up sandwiches, second chances

La PORTE — La Porte’s newest lunch spot isn’t just serving gooey, delectable gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and piping hot fresh soups to hungry customers.

It is also offering a chance for the community’s downtrodden to turn their lives around.

Last Saturday, Michigan City chef Erik Tannehill opened the doors to his newest venture, The Melt Kitchen, located at the former home of The Topp Skillet café, located at 810 Lincoln Way in downtown La Porte. The restaurant – which offers a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads – is currently open for carryout or curbside pickup, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

As the eatery’s name implies, Tannehill – a 30-year veteran of the foodservice business – is focusing his menu a lunchtime staple beloved by young and old alike, the grilled cheese sandwich.

Though the dish may be simple, the flavor of Tannehill’s assortment of sandwiches will be far from ordinary. Customers will not only have their choice of bread – Texas-style, wheat, rye or sourdough – but the menu offers several variations on the humble cheese melt, made with high quality, fresh ingredients and Tannehill’s assortment of house-made sauces.

“I’m a comfort food guy, but I try to do things a little more upscale, more original than other places,” Tannehill said.

These variations include his take on a pulled pork sandwich, topped with Munster cheese, caramelized onions and his raspberry chipotle barbecue sauce. Customers can also try his version of the Croque Madame, the Madame Farmer, made with Canadian bacon, white cheddar cheese and béchamel sauce, topped, of course, with a fried egg.

Tannehill’s kitchen will also be whipping up fresh side dishes for customers to enjoy with their meals. The restaurant will also have a rotating selection of soups, though the chef’s signature smoked tomato basil cream soup – a grilled cheese’s best friend – will enjoy a permanent spot on the menu.

Those looking for a lighter alternative can enjoy one of the restaurant’s salads, including a Caprese salad, tossed with the chef’s choice of melon. The house salad, on the other hand, includes tomatoes, cucumbers, bleu cheese, dried cranberries and seasonal nuts, with the customer’s choice of dressing or meat, if desired.

Topping off the menu is another beloved comfort food, mac and cheese, made with the chef’s choice of ingredients and served with grilled garlic bread and the customer’s choice of soup or salad.

The back-to-basics menu harkens back to Tannehill’s initial days in the kitchen, learning how to make dishes like grilled cheeses from his grandmother, he said. Since then, the Michigan City resident has made a career out of cooking, landing his first job in a professional kitchen at the age of 18, he said.

“I loved it,” he said. “I never looked back since.”

Five years ago, Tannehill, along with business partner Sarah Mitchell, opened Dark Star of the Dunes, a gastropub in Michigan City. The chef ran the back of the house, creating a menu of hamburgers, pizzas, hand-cut French fries and other pub favorites, all whipped up from scratch, Tannehill said.

It was around this same time that he discovered the work of Greg Boyle, a Los Angeles pastor who founded Homeboy Industries, a program that rehabilitates former gang members.

“His videos really moved me,” Tannehill said. “They were really powerful.”

Unfortunately, tragedy struck three years after Dark Star’s opening, as Tannehill was forced to walk away from the business due to illness.

While away from the kitchen, the chef contemplated how he makes a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, just like Boyle, he said.

He would eventually begin volunteering part-time at a local homeless shelter, where he would strike up conversations with the residents staying there. Given his background, many of these talks would eventually drift to the topic of food and cooking, with many of the residents asking how they could break into the industry.

These talks provided Tannehill with an idea – to open a restaurant dedicated to teaching people the basics of cooking in a professional setting, giving them a foundation of knowledge and experience they could use to launch a career in the industry.

Though he initially sought to launch this venture in his hometown, earlier this year, he saw an opportunity to open in La Porte after learning that Isabel Topp, owner of The Topp Skillet, was planning on selling her business.

After closing on a deal with Topp this past winter, Tannehill prepared to open the doors to his new restaurant in March. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put those ideas on hold until this past Saturday, when the chef could finally begin serving customers, albeit through carryout only.

Tannehill will be keeping this setup for the time being, as the dining room’s small size would only allow around three tables to be filled at a time under the state’s current coronavirus guidelines, he said. He will also only be opening on Fridays and Saturdays, due to his other job coordinating Michigan City’s emergency soup kitchen, though he will be expanding hours once that position winds down, he said.

In the meantime, he is looking for his first cohort of three to four apprentices who he can train at the restaurant.

The chef will spend several months working with each group, showing them everything from prepping for service to how to cook in a kitchen line. He is also looking to partner with local churches and service agencies, who can teach the apprentices other life skills after the restaurant closes for the day, Tannehill said.

His eventual goal is to spin off the job training portion of the business into a 501(c)3 organization, allowing him to apply for grants to purchase new equipment, uniforms and other items for the apprentices he said.

“I’m not looking to get rich off of this,” he said. “I just want this to be a self-supporting place that gets people on the right track – and serves some great food along the way.”

For more information about The Melt Kitchen, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page at face -105400424536385 or call (219) 243-3331. Those who know someone who could benefit from the restaurant’s apprentice program can contact Tannehill through Facebook or his email,

LEAP and EDCMC team up on 3-year-plan to spur growth


La PORTE COUNTY — The economic development authorities representing La Porte County’s two largest cities are again teaming up on a three-year investment campaign to aid in efforts to spur economic growth.

Economic Development Corporation Michigan City and La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership have officially launched the 2020-22 Economic Development Community Investment Campaign. The three-year goal is $600,000.

A Kick-Off event was originally scheduled for March 19, however, due to the COVID 19 virus, the event was canceled.

The Campaign marks the sixth three-year effort to raise funds to continue expanded and new aggressive economic development efforts through an Economic Development Program of Action.

More than 90 businesses made pledges during the last campaign, and mailings of the Investment Campaign brochures to past and new potential Investors has begun.

A Campaign Team has been established and is once again being coordinated by Bob Schaefer of Community Dynamics.

The joint effort between LEAP and EDCMC illustrates a unique partnership to position both La Porte and Michigan City as locations of choice for new business investments and existing business growth, according to Clarence Hulse, executive director of EDCMC.

“Over the past three years, both organizations have been working on economic development initiatives which include new business attraction, existing business retention and expansion, research and marketing,” Hulse said.

“The funding from the business community is essential to continue these aggressive initiatives through this pivotal joint Program of Action.”

Because of the past investments made, LEAP and EDCMC have been able to play key roles in ensuring successful projects, as well as, advancing the revitalizations of both cities’ downtowns, according to Bert Cook, LEAP executive director.

“The joint program will ultimately result in enhancing the overall vitality and quality of life in the greater La Porte and Michigan City areas,” he said.

In a joint statement Cook and Hulse said, “We encourage businesses to become investors at one of the levels of investment and help La Porte and Michigan City build economic success together.”

The organizations have partnered with the Unity Foundation of La Porte County, which has established the Economic Development Investment Fund for the tax deductible donations.

For more information on the campaign and how to contribute, contact Hulse at (219) 873-1211 or; or Cook at (219) 324-8584 bertc@laporte

– From staff reports

As economy reopens, officials warn of complacency against COVID-19

INDIANAPOLIS — As more and more of Indiana’s businesses open back, the state’s top health official is warning against complacency against the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner, warned that precautions are still needed to stem the spread of COVID-19, especially as most of the business and travel restrictions first imposed in March are lifted.

“It doesn’t really mean that we go back to the normal – no masks, no social distancing, no careful handwashing, alcoholing your hands,” Box said. “All of those are critical.”

Holcomb said he was still targeting July 4 as the date for when most gathering size and activity restrictions will be eliminated completely.

Indianapolis is one city taking things slow.

The capitol city will wait another week before following the state’s lead in lifting more coronavirus restrictions on businesses, Mayor Joseph Hogsett said Thursday.

The city will keep its current limits in place until June 19, while a new statewide order from Gov. Eric Holcomb will allow movie theaters and bars to reopen and a greater number of customers at restaurants and retail stores starting Friday.

Indianapolis has been easing restrictions slower than most of the state because of its higher concentration of infections and population density.

Hogsett said the one-week delay will give businesses in the state’s largest city more time to make needed preparations.

Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said the city had seen declines in the daily number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since April.

“We still have sufficient capacity if we should see a second surge of COVID-19 that occurs this summer,” she said. “We are well equipped in order to handle the surge if it occurred during the summer before influenza season starts.”

Indiana has seen at least 128 coronavirus-related deaths so far in June, boosting the state’s death toll to 2,355 since the first fatality was reported in mid-March, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Holcomb first declared a public health emergency on March 6 and followed that with a statewide stay-at-home order closing nonessential businesses beginning March 25. The stay-at-home order was lifted on May 4 as the initial easing of restrictions began.

“We can’t let up,” Holcomb said of safety precautions. “We can’t act like this virus isn’t continuing to spread across the state of Indiana, but we have the intensity at a managed level.”

Also Thursday, the Indiana State Department of Health reported 449 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing to 38,748 the total number of residents known to have the virus.

A total of 2,198 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 25 over Wednesday’s report. Another 182 probable deaths have been reported.

The La Porte County Health Department reported two new cases Wednesday, and two more on Thursday. That brings the county total to 280 public cases, 176 Westville Correctional cases, and 8 Indiana State Prison cases – a total of 464 cases and 24 deaths.

All of the new cases were in Michigan City, including two who are healthcare workers.

The Indiana State Medical Association also announced a new program to supply individual medical offices with the personal protective equipment needed to safely treat patients and protect staff.

Shortages of PPE have made re-opening difficult for many doctors. Now, practices of all sizes can purchase selected items at discounted rates comparable to bulk pricing. These items include hand sanitizer, isolation gowns and surgical masks.

“When the coronavirus first hit, many Hoosier doctors donated their own equipment for medical teams that needed it on the frontlines,” said ISMA President Dr. Lisa Hatcher. “I’m proud that the ISMA has joined with these Hoosier companies to give back to our physicians so they can get their patients and the state back on track. We are truly all in this together.”

The shortage was severe enough that many doctor offices reduced hours or remained closed altogether. In survey responses collected by ISMA, physicians estimated needing on a monthly basis 700,000 patient masks; 600,000 respirator masks; and 500,000 gowns, pairs of gloves and face shields to operate at full capacity.

ISMA staff turned to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), which identified several PPE suppliers and vetted them for quality and price.