East Chicago City Council seeks guidance on jailed member

The East Chicago City Council has decided to ask the Indiana attorney general and the State Board of Accounts for guidance as one of its members remains jailed.

Councilman Robert Battle is being held without bail at the Porter County Jail awaiting trial on federal homicide and drug charges. The 42-year-old is accused of fatally shooting alleged Two Six gang member Reimundo Camarillo Jr. on Oct. 12 after Camarillo confronted Battle about cooperating with a drug investigation.

Battle has claimed self-defense in the shooting death, but federal authorities have alleged that Battle fired three shots, hitting Camarillo in the back.

Voters re-elected Battle in November and he was recently sworn in while behind bars.

On Monday, the council declined to expel Battle, despite pleas from Camarillo's family. The council members said that they don't know whether they have the legal authority to stop Battle's pay or declare his seat vacant, The (Munster) Times reported.

"I heard everything, but I can't understand," said the victim's father, Reimundo Camarillo Sr. "He's using that money to pay his attorney. I pay taxes…. He was my only son. "

State law does permit a city council to expel members who are unable to perform their duties, but it doesn't define what those duties are, according to attorney Stephen Bower, who's representing the council members. The law is usually interpreted as a council member who's physically or mentally incapacitated, he said.

There's no specific law that gives the council power to remove a member who's charged with a felony and unable to make bond, unless they're convicted of the crime, Bower said.

The council agreed that state lawmakers should make the law clearer.

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