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Family of man shot by Elkhart Police asking for grand jury partial transcript

An attorney representing the family of Christopher Ryckeart is asking for a partial transcript that is limited to police officers' or witnesses' testimony around the time of the shooting.

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 9:04 p.m.

GOSHEN — The family of a man who was shot by three Elkhart Police officers following a car chase in November 2013, is asking the court to release a partial transcript from a grand jury meeting that took place Jan. 27.

Jim Brugh, the attorney representing Dale and Jan Ostrum, appeared in court Thursday, April 10, with a motion for a partial transcript limited to police officers' or eyewitnesses' testimony around the time of the shooting. 

The petitioners' son, Christopher Ryckeart, 31, led officers on a car chase Nov. 10, 2013, that took them into Michigan and then back to Elkhart. 

According to the Indiana State Police, officers were attempting to stop a pickup truck Ryckeart was driving for a violation. The truck was also reported stolen.

The chase ended in the area of Marion and Fourth streets. According to the investigation, Ryckeart was backing his truck into the path of the officer as they attempted to arrest him.

The three officers who fired shots in Ryckeart's direction, Cpl. Jason Ray, Patrolman Jason Gruber and Patrolman Dan Mayer, were placed on paid administrative leave. They were reinstated after the prosecutor's office and the police department's internal affairs office reviewed the investigation. 

Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public, and grand jury materials are rarely disclosed to the public.

But in this case, Brugh argued, the public has no interest in the secrecy of Ryckeart's case because the public was already aware about the grand jury and its purpose. He also argued Ryckeart's mother, who plans on filing a wrongful death estate, needed information about the officer's conduct, as well as her son's, at the time of the incident. 

Chief deputy prosecutor Vicki Becker said she objected to Brugh's petition, citing a statute that says grand jury proceedings are secret. 

"The principle behind the secrecy of a grand jury proceeding is much more than any individual case," she said. "It is a concept as a whole that individuals before a grand jury can provide truthful and honest testimony as the grand jurors of this community investigate a case."

Elkhart Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker asked the attorneys to allow him 60 days to issue a ruling in the case. 

By filing a wrongful death estate, Ryckeart's mother would receive the authority to take legal action on behalf of her son, Brugh said.

"The theory of the case would be an effort to prove that the police officers used excessive force," he said. "People are reluctant to speak in the neighborhood. So anyone who has information to share, I have ears to listen."


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