SENECA FALLS — The ongoing dispute between factions of the Cayuga Indian Nation took another turn early Sunday morning with the arrest of five people.
The arrests came after Seneca Falls police responded to the Nation’s Great Swamp Enterprises facility, at 61 Ovid St., shortly after 5 a.m. They were acting on a report that someone was trying to scale the fence that borders the property.
Police Chief Stuart Peenstra said one of his officers arrived to find a van ramming the fence in an apparent attempt to gain entry. The officer pulled in behind the van, which backed up and broadsided the police SUV on the driver’s side, causing extensive damage.
The officer, who was not named and not hurt, was able to get out of the vehicle and called for backup. Officers from the Waterloo Police Department and Seneca County Sheriff’s Office arrived minutes later.
Police detained four males and a 17-year-old female. Peenstra said they had been drinking and police found a small amount of marijuana in the van.
The following were charged and arraigned in Seneca Falls Town Court.
• Carlin T. Seneca, 30, of Irving, Chautauqua County, with felony driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, refusal to submit to a breath test, unsafe backing, open container, failure to notify DMV of an address change, two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child, fourth-degree criminal mischief and unlawful possession of marijuana.
He was taken to the county jail on $10,000 bail or $20,000 bond. A felony hearing in his case is scheduled for Thursday in town court.
• Joshua S. Waterman, 28, of Gowanda, with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child, unlawful possession of marijuana and open container. He was taken to jail on $1,500 bail or $3,000 bond.
• Tyler W. Seneca, 28, of Irving, with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child, unlawful possession of marijuana and open container. He was taken to jail on $1,500 bail or $3,000 bond.
• Elijah L. Jimmerson, 27, of Garden Street Extension, Seneca Falls, with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child and open container. He was taken to jail on $1,500 bail or $3,000 bond.
• The 17-year-old female, whose name was not released because she is eligible for youthful offender status, was charged with possession of alcohol by someone under 21. She was taken to jail on $500 bail or $1,000 bond.
Peenstra said hours before the incident, officers responded to the facility for another disturbance complaint but found no one in the area. He said those arrested appear to be part of the Unity Council, also known as the Bennett clan, that is trying to wrest control of Nation leadership from Clint Halftown.
When asked if he knew why they did it, Peenstra said: “It’s hard to say because they were very uncooperative and intoxicated. My guess is they were trying to take control of the building.”
Great Swamp Enterprises, at the former Klionsky Scrap Metal property, was set up to manufacture cigarettes for the Nation’s LakeSide Trading convenience stores in Seneca Falls and Union Springs. The Cayugas purchased the property in 2010 for $135,000.
According to police, witnesses said they saw flashing lights on the police vehicle before the van backed into it. Police said Carlin Seneca refused to take field sobriety tests or a breath test; the DWI charge against him is a felony because he has a previous conviction in the last 10 years.
Peenstra said he spoke with Unity Council leadership after the incident, and they told him they were unaware of those in the van plotting to do anything before it happened.
“The leadership did not know about this,” he said. “They are saying this was something they did not condone and it’s unfortunate.”
Other than Carlin Seneca, the others arrested are due back in town court May 19. Peenstra said this is the first time the dispute between the factions, which has been going on for several weeks, has resulted in criminal charges.
“Everything else has been a property dispute. I’ve been very clear with both Halftown and the Bennetts that any kind of criminal behavior that jeopardizes public safety, we are going to make an arrest on,” he said. “This time they definitely crossed that line. Hopefully, this shows we are not going to tolerate this.”