ITHACA, N.Y. — A police operation involving a narcotics investigation unfolded on Route 13 in front of Ithaca High School on Tuesday. Multiple witnesses reported seeing a crash, flash bangs and a number of police officers taking someone into custody.

At about 1:40 p.m., police served a search warrant to Kimani A. House, 38, of Ithaca. Members of the Ithaca Police Department SWAT Team, IPD Investigations Division and the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office responded.

According to a news release from the Ithaca Police Department, House was traveling north on Route 13 when police conducted a vehicle stop and took House into custody after a “brief struggle with police.”

Police say they found a substantial amount of heroin, cocaine and U.S. currency on House’s person.

According to several witnesses, the traffic stop involved a crash, loud bang or flash bangs. Students in a gym class watched the scene as they were outside on the tennis courts.

One student, who asked not to be identified, said the incident appeared to be a small crash at first. He said a vehicle rear-ended the car in front of them. He said he realized it was more than a crash, however, when he saw Ithaca police cars surrounding the vehicle.

Another student in the class said she first saw a police car drive by with its sirens on, and a minute or two later, a white van hit the truck in front of it. She said the side of the van opened and people wearing camouflage came out.

Both students said there was an extremely loud bang next, which almost sounded like an explosion, and there was smoke coming from one of the vehicles. The students said they heard someone on a speaker telling the suspect to leave the vehicle.

Students were advised to get down behind the benches near the tennis courts. They then ran back toward the school and sheltered in place in the gym until the incident was over. One of the students said it was a terrifying moment watching the incident in front them. While running back into the school, the student said he remembers seeing the “confusion, worry and terror” on other students faces.

Passersby also noticed the incident. One driver, Bill Overbaugh was traveling down Route 13 south when he noticed police lights. He said he thought it was someone getting a speeding ticket at first, but then noticed the police car instead of pulling someone over, turned diagonally in the road to stop traffic. Overbaugh said he then noticed two cars stopped on the road.

He said he then saw about six cops cars stopped, and officers sprinting toward the two cars. Overbaugh passed the scene he heard a loud bang and saw bluish-white smoke that turned into black smoke. His wife, who was following in a car behind him said she saw the white car was a van and the cops had guns drawn. The flash bangs were so loud, Overbaugh said his wife’s ears were still ringing afterward.

After House was taken into custody, police served a search warrant at House’s residence at 209 S. Plain St. in Ithaca. Two occupants of the residence were secured, but neither are being charged. Police say they found a weapon and items consistent with narcotics sales at House’s residence.

House has been charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.