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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

‘That’s two Black men gone:’ Community mistrust of IMPD

Approximately 24 hours after a man was fatally shot by IMPD during a welfare call, residents in the community voiced their anger and distrust of what they regard as frequent officer-involved shootings

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Two Black men were shot and killed by IMPD officers last month.

The Northwest Community Resource District Council (CRDC) hosted a community town hall Aug. 28 at the Global Village Welcome Center to discuss the topic of officer involved shootings.

“The CRDC was established to assist IMPD in providing the community a lens when they have these kinds of incidents. We also assist the community in discerning what could be and should be done,” said Toby Miller, co-chair of the Community Resource Team for CRDC.

RELATED: Community members and IMPD collaborate to reduce crime

“We provide basic understanding of what exists, what the processes look like [for IMPD] and how they work. Not something good or bad, but just what exists. Then, when you understand what exists as a community, you can be strategic on what things need to be enhanced or changed,” said Miller.

The CRDC town hall consisted of a panel of representatives from IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.

‘That’s two Black men gone:’ Community mistrust of IMPD
The CRCD town hall consisted of a panel of representatives from IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

IMPD officer involved shootings

On Aug. 27, 40-year-old Kendall Darnell Gilbert was fatally shot by an IMPD officer. Responding to a welfare call, police reported that Gilbert was making threats to his family and officers while holding a machete near the front door of his home.

Gilbert’s twin sister said her brother was hallucinating and stating he would burn the house down.

Over the course of several hours, Gilbert stood outside his home with a machete.
SWAT responded along with negotiators and deployed bean bag gunshots and stun guns
During the exchange, police say Gilbert charged officers with the machete, at which point an officer opened fire.

Gilbert was shot at least once and died from his injuries at Eskenazi Hospital.

In a statement, IMPD said:

There is no doubt the death of Mr. Gilbert is a tragedy. For 48 hours, IMPD Officers worked to peacefully resolve the situation, deploying less-lethal tactics and a psychologist with the Crisis Negotiation Unit was on-scene. Despite those measures, Mr. Gilbert moved towards officers with a machete in-hand. At that point, officers discharged their weapons.”

The officer who discharged his firearm is a veteran of the department and has been placed on administrative leave.

This is standard protocol for an officer-involved shooting, according to IMPD.

Two Black men shot and killed by IMPD officers

The town hall initially focused on the death of another Black man, 49-year-old Gary Dwayne Harrell. He was shot and killed by IMPD Officer Douglas Correll – another veteran with the department – on Aug. 3 during a traffic stop.

“I would just like to take a moment of silence for Mr. Harrell,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams to community members after showing a video of the shooting incident captured by Correll’s police camera.

“An officer has the same sort of protections that any of you have. On the criminal side, they have the right to not give a statement to the criminal investigator. They can invoke their right to remain silent. Now, on the administrative side, they have to give a statement.”

Harrell died from a gunshot wound to the back as he fled the traffic stop while holding a handgun.

Correll initially pulled Harrell over on suspicion of reckless driving before Harrell ran from the car.

Correll shot at least one round, and Harrell was administered aid until medics arrived.

“Once the criminal investigation wraps up, the administrative report is then given to the chief of police. He then can make a determination if something administratively has been violated,” said Harrell.

“There are things we look for like de-escalation; did they use time, distance and cover. Those are some of things we look for to ask was this within policy.”

Misconceptions and concern about police policy

The goal of the event was to explain the complexity of incidents involving the use of deadly force by officers and the extensive criminal and administrative processes that follow.

The event was met with outrage and distrust from community members.

One woman wanted to know why officers cannot shoot off a warning shot during the pursuit of a suspect or shoot them in the foot, the idea being that they would at least live.

IMPD answered why these often asked questions can’t work with their policy and doesn’t offer solutions.

puts officers and suspects in even more dangerous situations.

RELATED: IMPD releases body camera footage of man shot in grandmother’s driveway

Curtis Godfrey, former U.S. Marine, voiced concern over the disproportionately high number of Black men shot by IMPD officers.

As part of the IMPD’s commitment to transparency, they notify the public about incidents where an officer intentionally discharges a firearm at another person.

So far, there have been seven officer involved shootings in 2023.

Along with this month’s incidents, Godfrey referenced the case of Anthony Maclin who was shot multiple times by officers while parked in his grandmother’s driveway in 2022.

As of now, no charges have been filed against the officers involved in these shootings.
Godfrey stated there is no justification for shooting individuals in the back or in a vehicle.

Better mental health resources

Before the town hall meeting began, Herman Whitfield II held up signs of his son, Herman Whitfield III, who was killed by IMPD officers April 25, 2022.

Herman Whitfield III died in police custody after officers responded to a 911 call made by Herman Whitfield II and his wife when their son was having a mental health crisis at their home.

“The entire community is still seeking answers,” said Herman Whitfield II in the meeting.

In Indianapolis, there are currently 1,418 Black residents with mental health needs per one BIPOC therapist available to them, according to a 2023 Counseling Psychology report.

RELATED: Clinician-led response team begins to respond to mental health crises without police

The City unveiled the Clinician Led-Response Team to respond to calls like Herman Whitfield III’s and Gilbert’s earlier this year.

Right now, team members can only be dispatched between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.; ultimately, the goal is to make this team available 24/7.

Still, many community members felt no resolutions were made during the meeting.

“They say trust the process; they show us the process, but that’s two Black men gone. It’s deeper than a process, and the minute we’re honest with ourselves on both sides about it, the better things will be,” said community member Shirley Anne.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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