January 15, 2023

‘They’re not going to kill him, are they?’ New body camera footage released in police custody death

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Gladys Whitfield, the mother of Herman Whitfield III, asked officers if they were going to kill her son minutes after they arrived for an apparent mental health crisis, new body camera footage released Jan. 14 shows. 

Whitfield, 39, died April 25 after his mother called 911 and said her son was having “some sort of episode.”

The family of Herman Whitfield III has made demands for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to release the entire footage of events that led to his death on April 25, 2022. IMPD released a 14-minute critical response incident in July 2022, but the family has said it is “selective and biased.” 

“The family believes the entire body cam videos capturing the events of April 25, 2022, leading to Herman’s death should be released. IMPD refused to release the videos, and unsuccessfully sought to keep them away from the family and public,” Rich Waples, the attorney representing the family, said in a press release. “The family successfully obtained a court order requiring the videos to be released to the family and denying the City’s request for a protective order to keep them secret.” 

The attorneys representing the family of Herman Whitfield III compiled the body cam footage from the six responding officers in a 22-minute YouTube video. The newly released body cam footage reveals a new conversation between Whitfield’s mother and Officer Dominique Clark that goes as follows: 

Gladys: They’re not going to kill him, are they?

Clark: I’m sorry, what?

Gladys: Because, because he’s…

Clark: We’re just talking to him, ma’am.

Gladys: I know. I know. But I’m… You’re calling someone else. I’m really concerned.

Clark: Well wait. Okay, well we’re just talking to him. Nobody’s got anything out that would cause him harm. OK? OK.

The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the six officers in June. 

The six officers named in the lawsuit are Clark, Steven Sanchez — who allegedly deployed the stun gun — Adam Ahmad, Matthew Virt, Jordan Bull and Nicholas Matthew. All officers were previously identified by IMPD and have been on administrative leave during the investigation.

The video released by the family can be watched here.

IMPD does not comment on pending litigation “out of respect for the judicial process,” according to IMPD Public Affairs. In a statement issued Sunday, IMPD officials said the department turned over necessary materials, including officer body cam footage, to all parties involved in the lawsuit.

After IMPD completes a separate administrative investigation, “the civilian-majority Use of Force Review Board will review the criminal and administrative investigations and make a recommendation to the Chief of Police on whether the officer’s actions were in compliance with department policies and training,” said IMPD Public Affairs.

At that point, IMPD’s Chief of Police will consider discipline up to a recommendation of termination.

This story has been updated.

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or by email at jaydenk@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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