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Cass County MI Sheriff's Office
Monday July 6th, 2020 :: 05:10 p.m. EDT


Diamond Lake Sandbar Event on July 4, 2020:

Cass County Sheriff Richard J. Behnke's response to the Diamond Lake Sandbar Event on July 4, 2020:
The Diamond Lake Sandbar July 4th event has been held for several years in LaGrange and Jefferson Townships in Cass County. It originated as a local event for people of the lake and community to celebrate Independence Day. In recent years, it has become a more organized event with bands and other entertainment on barges anchored in the lake. Advertising and social media has resulted in increased attendance from outside communities. At no point in time has the Cass County Sheriff’s Office or any other governmental unit supported the event; however, the event has garnered the support of some local businesses.
Since the sandbar events have grew, so did concern from members of the community. One of the biggest issues was access to the sandbar itself, as most lake frontage was privately owned. Attendees park on and then trespass across private property without permission from the owner. With that, the attendees would often urinate and litter on the private property. Other event concerns were excessive alcohol consumption, underage consumption of alcohol, public indecency, hazardous boating practices and a lack of public order. Other issues at the Diamond Lake Public Access maintained by the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were parking areas overwhelmed with vehicles, trash and human defecation.
In response to public concern, the Sheriff’s Office increased patrols both on the lake and on land. On-duty officers advised attendees they must park legally and not trespass on private party. Officers also maintained a presence at the DNR public access to uphold control and order of the parking lots. Additionally, with funding from lake associations and other local support, the Marine Patrol Division of the Sheriff's Office increased the number of patrol boats in the water in order to maintain public safety. The increased presence resulted in numerous arrests for drunk driving, as well as assaults. Also, numerous citations were issued for minors in possession of alcohol, boating violations, etc.
Prior to the 2020 sandbar events, the Sheriff’s Office engaged the State DNR for assistance to control the event as the DNR issued permits for lake activities. Unfortunately, the DNR advised the sandbar parties did not necessitate a permit despite the fact that fireworks that took place just hours after the sandbar event disbanded were required to obtain a permit.
The Cass County Sheriff's Office is unable to suspend events from occurring on public lakes; however, they did contact organizers out of concern due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, the attempts to communicate were met with confrontation and unwillingness to work toward a safe and controlled event. It should be noted, though, that organizers did provide periodic announcements regarding the risks of COVID as well as the need to socially distance.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office strives to keep the citizens of Cass County safe and to take action when necessary. All reports and possible criminal charges from the sandbar events will be forwarded to the Cass County Prosecutor for review. The Sheriff's Office is also working with other local governing offices in response to the activity.
The incident remains under investigation.

Cass County MI Sheriff's Office
321 Michigan 62
Cassopolis, MI 49031

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 269-445-1560

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