East Chicago man accused of hitting trooper’s car, fleeing scene

An East Chicago man is facing multiple charges — including four felonies — after he crashed into the cruiser of an Indiana State Trooper and injured the officer on March 7.

Joel Antonio Barrera is facing charges of criminal recklessness, leaving the scene of an accident causing injury, resisting law enforcement, and obstruction of justice — which are all Level 6 felonies — in addition to misdemeanor false informing, reckless driving, possession of marijuana, and altered interim license plate counts.

Around 11:28 p.m. on March 7, Trooper Kevin Council was parked in the left lane with his emergency lights activated due to an earlier crash that other officers were investigating on Cline Avenue near the bridge over the Grand Calumet River, according to an Indiana State Police news release. An SUV rear-ended Council’s police car, revved its engine, and fled the scene at a high rate of speed. Council was transported to a local hospital for treatment pain in his neck, according to the probable cause affidavit.

The vehicle involved in the crash — a gray 2019 Chevrolet Equinox — was found parked in the 3200 block of Regent St. in East Chicago by an East Chicago officer. The Equinox sustained significant damage, including multiple flat tires, deployed airbags, and open alcoholic beverage containers were visible inside the vehicle, police said. The officers impounded the vehicle at that time.

Around 6:30 p.m. on March 8, Barrera reported the vehicle was stolen to the East Chicago Police Department, alleging that it had been taken from his girlfriend’s residence in the 3700 block of Euclid Ave, the release said.

A search warrant was requested and granted by a Lake County judge to collect evidence. Detectives discovered that paint transfer and parts missing from the Equinox were found embedded in Trooper Council’s patrol vehicle, the affidavit stated. Inside the SUV, evidence was collected including an empty 24-ounce beer bottle, an empty 100 ml cognac bottle, and a green, leafy substance that tested positive for marijuana. Cellphone records from Barrera’s phone also placed him in the vicinity of the crash at the time it occurred, court records state.

A judge approved a second warrant to collect a DNA sample from Barrera. When officers attempted to serve the DNA search warrant, Barrera refused to cooperate, court records state. He was told the swab from inside his cheek wasn’t voluntary, but repeatedly told officers that he would not participate.

Barrera has since been released from the Lake County Jail, the release stated.