JEFFERSONVILLE — An ongoing dispute over what some residents have called excessive noise coming from Big Four Station came to a head Monday.
During a Zumba class in the park, a man allegedly jumped on stage and yelled at the instructor before tampering with sound equipment.
Though each side sees the situation differently, some facts are clear. Walter "Bill" Carrico did approach Maggie Tully at the park while she was instructing the class. There was alcohol in Carrico's system; he admitted to the Jeffersonville Police Department and the News and Tribune that he had a "couple shots of bourbon." After exchanging words with Tully — including some expletives — sound equipment was touched by Carrico, though to differing degrees according to each party.
Downtown noise has been a hot button issue in Jeffersonville, as the city council at its most recent meeting created a three-person committee to explore making changes to what some officials say is an outdated noise ordinance. The action came on the heels of residents protesting at city hall about noise coming from downtown businesses.
Mayor Mike Moore, who was in attendance at the Zumba class, went on the stage to stand between Carrico and the equipment. At that point, Carrico was taken away in handcuffs before being transported to the Clark County Jail on charges of resisting law enforcement, disorderly conduct and public intoxication.
According to Tully, it wasn't the first time she's had issues like this, noting that Carrico's wife, Mary Jo, who spearheaded the city hall protest, has also come on stage twice in recent weeks. It was, however, her first encounter with Walter Carrico.
"He just barged up there and said to turn it down," Tully said. "I was trying to back away from him, then he goes over to the speaker and acts like he’s going to kick and unplug it. He acted like he was going to swing on me. He was very intoxicated."
But from Carrico's perspective, he wasn't as aggressive as described by Tully, nor had he had enough alcohol to be considered "belligerent." Instead, he was simply frustrated with the constant noise he and his wife have had to deal with over the summer.
"We were hearing it right here almost as good as you could outside," Carrico said during an interview at his house on Tuesday, after his release from jail. "My wife had just finished me a steak. I had couple shots of bourbon. ... We can't even sit back here this far away from that without these people turning their crap up and making my steak dance across the plate. I decided that I had had it."
Carrico went outside, only to get more upset at how much louder the unfiltered noise was. He then went over to the park, where the incident took place.
"I jumped up, went over to her and said 'turn this [expletive] down,'" Carrico said. "I had to yell at her because it was too loud. She said 'get the hell out of here.' I said 'no, turn it down.' The next thing I know staring me right in the face was our mayor."
Moore said that he has long been a fan of the Zumba program, so he took the opportunity to go to the event with his daughters.
"Probably about 20 minutes into the workout, one of my daughters tapped me on the shoulder," Moore said. "It was Walter Carrico, and he looked a little frightening."
When Carrico began messing with the equipment, Moore said he had to intervene.
"About that time he started reaching for the cord," Moore said. "He had an open hand pulled back in a threatening manner, so I start walking up to the stage. It looks like he’s about to unplug the speaker. It looked like he was going to destroy a $2,000 piece of equipment. I jump up on the stage and get between him and the speaker. I made it clear that I was not going to touch him while the cops continue to walk forward."
Carrico, however, said he wasn't going to destroy anything. Rather, he claims he only turned down a speaker knob.
"I made a waving gesture and said 'I'm leaving,'" Carrico said. "Nobody else was going to cooperate, so I saw a knob and turned it partially down. Somebody said I was trying to tear up their speaker system, but I was not. I'm not going to tear up something on purpose. I'm mad, but I'm not going to do that."
Either way, Carrico's next stop was jail.
"I jumped down into a crowd of police officers," Carrico said. "I've never seen so many cops in my life. You'd swear up and down that I was up there with a machine gun or something."
After returning home, Carrico said he couldn't help but feel like he had been set up. The quick response of the police, he said, was all too conspicuous.
"We think that it was a set up," Carrico said. "I told [my wife] that when she picked me up from jail. It seemed to me like the music was louder. I'm a highly decorated soldier. The city's making too much noise here, and all they want to do is give me a record and destroy my good name."
There was an increased presence of police officers around the park Monday night. The reason for this was Moore putting in some calls prior to the event, to protect the instructors after they reported multiple incidents.
“I had been made aware of this problem the week before," Moore said Tuesday. "[The instructors] didn’t know what to think. They didn’t know what they were supposed to do. They were scared. I told them I would contact the police. I had to let my police chief, my assistant chief and my city attorney know. I told them I would be down there, too."
Regardless of the specifics of how things unfolded, the fact remains that the ordeal was frightening for pretty much all involved. Because of that, Tully worries that she will see a decline in attendance.
“After class, several of the participants came up and were very frightened," Tully said. "They asked if it was going to happen all the time and that they don’t want to come if so. Nowadays, you don’t know what somebody is going to do. I don’t think they should be afraid to come down and do something fun the city is putting on. Some bring their kids. I feel like we’re going to have a drop."