August 28, 2023

‘No justification.’ Community frustrated after Indy police fatally shoot 2nd Black man this month

Rev. Antonio Alexander, assistant pastor at Purpose of Life Ministries, speaks during a town hall about police-involved shooting on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023 at Global Village Welcome Center was hosted by the Northwest Community Resource District Council.  - Katrina Pross / WFYI

Rev. Antonio Alexander, assistant pastor at Purpose of Life Ministries, speaks during a town hall about police-involved shooting on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023 at Global Village Welcome Center was hosted by the Northwest Community Resource District Council.

Katrina Pross / WFYI

About 24 hours after Indianapolis police officers fatally shot a man during a welfare call, community members expressed anger and frustration during a town hall meeting about the frequency of officer-involved shootings in the city.

Two Black men have been shot and killed by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers this month. 

“The key is how we can come together as a community with law enforcement partners and be determined that we're going to make change, positive change for our entire community,” said Rev. Antonio Alexander, assistant pastor at Purpose of Life Ministries. 

Tensions are rising between some in the Black community and local law enforcement. In recent weeks, the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis called for the removal of IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, and the Black Church Coalition called for a federal investigation into the department. 

Monday’s town hall at the Global Village Welcome Center was hosted by the Northwest Community Resource District Council. Alexander, the group’s co-chair, said the hope of the gathering was for community members to ask questions to law enforcement and to learn more about the process of investigating officer-involved shootings. 

On Aug. 3, Gary Dwayne Harrell was fatally shot after he was pulled over for reckless driving. Harrell ran away from an officer on foot, holding a gun in his hand. His back was facing the officer, who discharged his firearm twice, hitting Harrell once. Harrell was pronounced dead at a hospital. Edited body-worn camera footage of the incident was released last week. 

On Sunday night, an IMPD officer fatally shot Kendall Darnell Gilbert. IMPD said they responded to a welfare call and found Gilbert making threats towards the family and officers while holding a machete near the house’s front door. Gilbert was shot at least once and died at a hospital. 

Members of IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office were on the town hall’s panel. They said incidents when officers use deadly force are complicated and have lengthy criminal and administrative investigation processes. 

But many of the dozens of community members who attended the meeting expressed frustration toward law enforcement’s attempts to explain the complex process of what comes after an officer shoots a person — including the investigation and release of details. 

The town hall was organized before Sunday’s fatal shooting of Gilbert, and was to focus on the shooting death of Harrell. When IMPD officials played edited body-worn camera footage on a screen depicting the shooting of Harrell, some in the audience shook their heads in apparent disapproval. 

One attendee, Curtis Godfrey, said he is alarmed by the number of Black men who are shot by police. In addition to this month’s shootings, he pointed to the IMPD shooting of Anthony Maclin, who was shot several times while parked in a car in his grandmother’s driveway last December. No criminal charges have been filed against the officers involved at this time. 

“There is no justification for shooting a person, anyone in the back or shooting into the car,” he said.

Godfrey is also concerned that two men have been shot and killed by IMPD officers this month. 

Herman Whitfield Jr., whose son, Herman Whitfield III, died after IMPD officers responded to his mental health crisis, was also in attendance with his wife Gladys Whitfield. Whitfield Jr. said he didn’t feel like the law enforcement members effectively answered the community’s questions at the event. 

 “The whole community is just still looking for answers,” he said. 

Members of IMPD said during the meeting that they couldn’t give specific answers to some questions about recent officer-involved shootings due to the ongoing litigation processes. The Community Resource District Council said questions that were not answered at Monday’s town hall will be sent to officers for a response. 

Another issue debated is the amount of funding allocated to IMPD in Mayor Joe Hogsett’s proposed 2024 budget. Some community members expressed anger over the record $323 million proposed to go to the department.

Contact WFYI criminal justice reporter Katrina Pross at kpross@wfyi.orgPross is a Corps Member of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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