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Man who was ‘having a psychosis’ dies in police custody

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A man who was having an apparent mental health crisis was killed April 25 after police used a stun gun and placed him in handcuffs.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers responded to a call at 3:20 a.m. on the northeast side, where police say they came into contact with an adult man and his parents. The father told officers his son, identified as 39-year-old Herman Whitfield III, was “having a psychosis” and requested an ambulance.

“The man was moving around the home, naked and sweating,” IMPD said in an incident brief. “Officers observed the male was bleeding from the mouth. Officers began to communicate with the male to prepare him for transportation by ambulance.”

Officers then “lost sight” of Whitfield in the home, police said, and after 10 minutes of negotiating, Whitfield “moved quickly towards an officer.”

The officer used his electronic control device, more commonly known as a Taser, striking Whitfield in the chest with at least one of the two prongs. After the taser trigger is pulled, it is automatically activated for five seconds, police said. The officer activated the taser twice.

“The man continued to resist after the deployment of the taser,” police said.

Police also placed Whitfield in two pairs of handcuffs, noting his size of approximately 6 feet, 2 inches and 280 pounds.

Medics then entered the home and asked Whitfield to roll over, but he didn’t respond. After medics checked for a pulse, Whitfield’s handcuffs were removed, and medics and officers administered CPR.

Medics transported him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced deceased shortly after arrival.

The IMPD Critical Incident Response Team will conduct a criminal investigation, and IMPD Internal Affairs will conduct an administrative investigation. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office will consulted throughout the investigation.

The officers who were directly involved have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

Police said multiple officers had cameras that were activated.

Unanswered questions

Questions still remain about who called police and what exactly the caller requested.

IMPD hadn’t released additional information as of April 27.

Based on initial information, the call seems to be the type that might be handled by the Mobile Crisis Assistance Team, or MCAT, which pairs an officer trained on crisis intervention and a clinician. Those teams only operate 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, IMPD said, so they wouldn’t have been available when the call was made.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853 or email at tylerf@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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