In response to the recent increase in gun violence in Michigan City, the La Porte County Drug Task Force (LCDTF), which is a federally funded program through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative, has
immediately began conducting Violent Crime Reduction (VCR) patrols to proactively combat this unfortunate violence in Michigan City. Corporal Willie Henderson and Deputy Jim Fish were working VCR on Monday August 31st around 9:00 P.M. in the Eastport Neighborhood, when they observed a vehicle fail to stop at a stop sign at N. Carroll Avenue and Monroe Street. The driver of this vehicle was then observed crossing the solid yellow center line on N. Carroll Avenue near Rose Street.
Having observed these infractions, Corporal Henderson coordinated with La Porte County Sheriff’s Office K9 Deputy
Jon Samuelson to assist. Deputy Samuelson conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle which was occupied by two
subjects. The vehicle began to slowly come to a stop near Springland Avenue and N. Carroll Avenue. Prior to the
vehicle coming to a complete stop, the passenger side door began to open, and a leg came out of the vehicle.
Deputy Samuelson advised over his PA system that if anyone ran, he would release his K9, at which time the leg
entered the vehicle and the passenger door shut.
The vehicle came to a stop and the occupants of the vehicle were removed and identified as Darwin VAN JR, 35,
(Driver) and Dennis BIRTS, 28, (Passenger) both of Michigan City. While these subjects were detained, Deputy
Samuelson ran his K9 partner Bosco around the vehicle at which time Bosco alerted to the presence of illegal drugs.
A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed suspected synthetic marijuana and a .38 caliber revolver. VAN JR and
BIRTS were both placed under arrest and transported to the police station for processing.
On Wednesday September 2nd, formal charges were filed on VAN JR and BIRTS with the assistance of La Porte
County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roule. VAN JR was charged with Serious Violent Felon in Possession of a Firearm
as a Level 4-Felony and BIRTS was charged with Carrying a Handgun without a License Level 5-Felony. VAN JR
and BIRTS are currently both being held at the La Porte County Jail with NO BOND. Probable cause for the
charges was found by La Porte County Superior Court #4 Magistrate John A Link. VAN JR and BIRTS will have
their initial court appearance in La Porte County Superior Court #1 on Tuesday September 8th at 8:30 A.M. in front
of Judge Michael Bergerson.