The in-custody death of Herman Whitfield III was ruled a homicide by the Maron County Coroner’s Office. The coroner’s autopsy report was provided by attorneys for Whitfield’s family.
According to the report, Whitfield, who died in police custody in April during an apparent mental health crisis, died of “cardiopulmonary arrest in the setting of law enforcement subdual, prone restraint and conducted electrical weapon use.”
The report also lists “morbid obesity” and “hypertensive cardiovascular disease” as contributing factors in his death.
A classification of homicide from the coroner’s office does not mean murder. There are still ongoing investigations, and the prosecutor’s office will determine if criminal charges are warranted.
In a statement, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said its investigators will move forward with the criminal and administrative investigations.
“Chief Taylor has instructed the IMPD Critical Incident Response Team to finish all remaining aspects of the criminal investigation and present the case to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) by end of day Friday,” the statement said.
Following the criminal investigation and any criminal proceedings, the civilian-majority Use of Force Review Board will make a recommendation to IMPD Chief Randal Taylor on whether the officers’ actions were in compliance with department policies and training.
Based on a review of the facts and the board’s feedback, Taylor will consider discipline up to a recommendation of termination to the Civilian Police Merit Board.
Whitfield, 39, died April 25 after his mother called 911 and said her son was having “some sort of episode.”
Police body camera footage shows officers entering the home in the 3700 block of Marrison Place and attempting to talk to Whitfield, who didn’t appear to understand officers’ questions or directives. He then ran from a bedroom to the kitchen, and then into the dining room, where an officer tased Whitfield.
Whitfield’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and police officers involved in his death, alleging they used excessive force.
The attorneys for Whitfield’s family said in a statement the coroner’s findings are consistent with police body cam footage and the family’s lawsuit.
“Mr. Whitfield, who was in his family home, needed professional mental health care, not the use of deadly force,” the statement said.
In a joint statement, Baptist Minister’s Alliance, National Action Network of Indiana and Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis called for Chief Taylor to “immediately fire” the officers involved and for the city to settle the lawsuit.