Make your home page

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — A Ball State University professor and scientist is praising Gov. Eric Holcomb for the mask mandate.

The professor says the mandate, which starts Monday, will save lives.

Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani said he thinks Holcomb should have done a mask mandate even sooner, but the professor of health science also said he’s glad Indiana has the requirement now and wants everyone to embrace it.

He says, in a time where COVID-19 has no real treatment or vaccine, masks are all people have to fight the spread of the virus. He also called COVID-19 the smartest child in the coronavirus family.

“It infects people and does not show symptoms,” Khubchandani said. “You could be having the virus for 10 days and have no symptoms at all and, in the meanwhile, you could be infecting other people. Given the nature of this coronavirus, the only chance we have to save others and ourselves is to wear a mask because asymptomatic people are infecting others.”

In Wednesday’s news conference where Holcomb announced the mandate, the governor said, “I’ve seen the movie before. I’ve seen it around the country. I know how it ends and we’re trying to change that ending for real people.”

Khubchandani says masking decreases transmission from 25-50%. He believes if people don’t start getting serious about reducing the spread, the virus could continue for as long as two years.

Here is a summary of all research he has gathered on why people may or may not wear a mask:

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — I-Team 8 has learned one of the men charged in the July 4 altercation at Lake Monroe is pressuring prosecutors on why no charges were filed against Vauhxx Booker.

The incident near Bloomington, Indiana, drew national attention when Booker posted videos on Facebook of what he calls an attempted lynching.

The attorney for Sean Purdy released a statement Tuesday morning, four days after Purdy was charged with confinement and battery. Attorney David Hennessy wants to know why Booker isn’t charged as well, especially since Indiana Department of Natural Resources investigators said he may have committed battery and trespassing. Hennessy said Booker admitted punching his client, causing severe bruising and internal bleeding.

Hennessy and Purdy also claim Booker admitted trespassing on private property, and that he claimed to be a county commissioner threatening — in their words — fines and to ruin lives. The attorney is asking anyone with information on the case to come forward, and put pressure on the Monroe County prosecutor to file charges against Booker.

In a news conference last week, Booker said again he was the victim in the case and criticized the DNR’s handling of the investigation.

Sean Purdy and Jerry Allen Cox are due in court Friday on charges against them from the fight. Both are out on bond at the moment.

A federal investigation that could include possible hate crime charges is still underway.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — USA Gymnastics got a Paycheck Protection Program loan despite the organization fighting public scrutiny, lawsuits and bankruptcy since 2018.

The loans from the federal government were meant to help small businesses cover expenses and hold on to employees through the pandemic.

Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics (USAG) got a Paycheck Protection Program loan totaling from $350,000 to $1 million. The Small Business Administration did not tell us how much each organization got, but breaks them into tiers.

The USAG came under fire after accusations of sexual assault by a team doctor, Larry Nassar, and accusations the USAG knew about it and covered it up. Nassar is facing what amounts to a life sentence, and former USAG CEO and Fishers resident Steve Penny is facing charges for tampering with evidence in the case. USAG filed for bankruptcy in late 2018.

Attorney John Manly represented nearly 200 women — including Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Jamie Dantzscher and Rachael Denhollander, who was the first to speak publicly about the doctor — who say Nassar assaulted them.

Manly sent I-Team 8 this statement: “As small businesses around the country fought to get Paycheck Protection Loans to survive Covid-19, bankrupt USA Gymnastics sued to obtain federal funding to continue paying its staff which is working against the interests of sexual abuse victims. They have now joined the U.S. Roman Catholic Church and its affiliates in obtaining funding from this program. Giving taxpayer dollars to organizations who have engaged in the systemic protection of child rapists is morally bankrupt.”

Dozens of Nassar’s survivors demanded last month that the U.S. Department of Justice release information on their investigation into USAG.

I-Team 8 reached out to the Small Business Administration about the loan. We did not hear back from them after giving them more than a week to respond.

USA Gymnastics responded several hours after this story originally aired. They gave us the following statement:

As a small, nonprofit organization, USA Gymnastics is grateful that funding received through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program will allow our staff, the vast majority of whom are based in Indianapolis, to continue their important work serving the needs of gymnasts across the country and providing essential education, programming and safety resources.

USA Gymnastics

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — I-Team 8 has obtained a new report from the Marion County Coroner’s Office that says Dreasjon “Sean” Reed was shot multiple times in a homicide.

Reed was shot by police in what Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department says was a shootout on May 6 behind a business in the 6200 block of Michigan Road. Reed made a Facebook Live post of the chase that led up to the shootout. He died at the scene.

The coroner’s office classified Reed’s death as a homicide. To be clear, a homicide just means one person killed another person, but not by accident. The term does not mean it was criminal; it also covers justified shootings. The Reed family has called this a murder the entire time.

The coroner’s office says this autopsy was released to special prosecutor Rosemary Khoury on June 22, but we did not know any of the details until now. The special prosecutor filed a petition Tuesday in a Marion County courtroom to block the release of the autopsy report.

Reed’s mother on Wednesday filed an objection to the special prosecutor’s request to block the release of the autopsy report.

Last week, a judge granted a request from Khoury to order the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Marion County Crime Lab to hand over all evidence in the case to the Indiana State Police.

About a week ago, state police investigators were back at the scene but would not tell I-Team 8 what they were looking for.

There is no public timeline for when more information or when decisions might come down.

Reed’s mother issued a statement Wednesday through her lawyer:

“Repeatedly, we have tried to make sense of why everything in this case deviates from normal. We cannot make sense of it. At every turn during this ‘transparent’ investigation, we have had to fight for even the most basic information. Irrespective of any requests the Coroner’s Office may have received to do otherwise, they have not been absolved of their obligation to comply with Indiana law and release the autopsy report to Dreasjon’s mother.

“We have learned that the autopsy report has been completed since June 12th. We have spent 26 days since then, respectfully requesting that Dreasjon’s mother be given that which the law says she’s entitled to. Our patience has worn thin. Our trust has been eroded. Our kindness has been interpreted as weakness. We will not ask again. We will let the courts decide.”

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — I-Team 8 has a new, in-depth look at some of the Indiana companies that have received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Small Business Administration released the data Monday after promising it for several weeks.

The data names the 11,853 companies and organizations in Indiana that got more than $150,000 each. They claim the loans helped save 598,595 jobs in Indiana. Most of the companies, almost 2,495, that received large loans were in Indianapolis. Nonprofits made up fewer than 800 of the Indiana companies in the state that got large loans.

Excluded from the data were companies that received less than $150,000. In total, 77,872 companies or organizations in Indiana received loans of any size from the PPP, totaling $9,457,392,872 in funds.

The government’s data does not disclose how much each company received but did break down the funds into tiers:

One business not on the list is Escalade Inc. in southwestern Indiana. The company returned its $5.6 million loan after I-Team 8 reported on the publicly traded company. Federal officials had criticized publicly traded companies for taking money they intended to go to small businesses.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Wednesday, Indiana State Police investigators went back at the scene where Dreasjon Reed died in what Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officials called an exchange of gunfire with an officer.

There was a large tent over part of the area at 62nd and Michigan roads.

A handful of people were walking around with shovels, cameras, buckets and metal detectors. I-Team 8 reached out to ISP, who confirmed they were out there but would not tell us what they might have been looking for. We were kept away from the area with crime scene tape, and no one at the scene would talk with us, but they spent several hours out there.

Rosemary Khoury, deputy prosecutor for Madison County and special prosecutor for the Reed case, asked ISP to take over the investigation last month, saying she wants to review the evidence in “as sterile an environment as possible.”

IMPD has claimed Reed had a gun at the time of the shooting, and that at least two shots were fired from that weapon following a police chase. More than a dozen total shots were fired.

Fatima Johnson, managing attorney of the Law Firm of Fatima Johnson and attorney for the Reed family, sent I-Team 8 a statement regarding the progress of the investigation:

“We are beyond disappointed at the way this case has been handled thus far. Dreasjon “Sean” Reed lost his life and we know no more today than we did on May 6, 2020. Looking for physical evidence two months after a crime occurred is just one of the deviations that let us know that there was never any intention to tell the truth about what happened that day. I’m sure the public can see through this façade.”

Reed’s family has publicly labeled his death a “murder.”

No criminal charges have been filed, and there’s no public timeline for the special prosecutor to reach a decision.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — While businesses are struggling to stay afloat, some are taking their fight to get funds to court.

I-Team 8 spoke with representatives for two central Indiana businesses suing insurance companies because they say their policy should cover losses from having to close during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is taking a dramatic pause. Though the last several weeks seem like a scene from a play, the pandemic’s effect on entertainment is all too real: The IRT canceled its entire season.

“They had to lay off staff, they had to cut budgets across the board, they had the close the theater, they’ve got to return ticket money for refunds,” said George Plews, the attorney representing the IRT in this case. “They had to sustain losses. We’re still counting them, but it looks like it is a loss of between $500,000 and a million dollars or more.”

The IRT’s lawsuit claims the policy does not exempt virus coverage, so IRT believes it is entitled to business income during a period when its ordinary operations are suspended. The theater’s insurer, Cincinnati Casualty Company, denied the theater’s claim. 

Plews said the insurance company’s primary argument is that there has to be an actual physical impact on the property, and that the policy is not intended to cover things that do not have a physical impact on the property. However, Plews said, CCC did have the option of putting a virus exclusion in IRT’s policy — a form he says has been available to insurers since about 2006. But, according to Plews, IRT’s policy does not contain a virus exclusion.

“It was pretty clear, pretty quickly, that it wasn’t going to get paid,” said Plews. “In fact, in some cases, insurers have been issuing denials within a couple of days after getting the claim.”

The owner of MHG Hotels in central Indiana is facing the same fight with his insurer.

“This insurance company needs to step up and do the right thing,” said Sanjay Patel, CEO of MHG Hotels. “This is what people pay for.”

Patel told I-Team 8 his hotels’ occupancy went from 65-70% down to the single digits. He wants to keep employees at his 13 Indiana hotels on the payroll and thinks his insurance policy should cover this. He said a PPP loan from the federal government won’t be enough to retain all employees until business rebounds. He feels his insurance claim was denied out of hand.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to do this,” Patel said of the legal action he is taking. “This is something that we paid for for years, and we have never claimed a business interruption before and the insurance company just needs to do the right thing.”

When I-Team 8 reached out to IRT’s insurer, Cincinnati Casualty Company, and MHG Hotels’ insurer, EMC Insurance, both said they couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

The Insurance Information Institute says coronavirus is not covered under a typical business interruption plan, according to its website.

Plews said small business owners should take a hard look at their policies and see if they might be eligible for the same kind of compensation the IRT is seeking.

By the end of May, the Indiana Department of Insurance had received eight complaints about insurers not covering COVID-19 losses by the end of May.

IRT is opening its 2020-2021 season November with “A Christmas Carol” with special safety procedures for audiences.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State officials will investigate how the pandemic is affecting utilities and their customers. This investigation comes after a petition from consumer advocates and another from utility companies.

One petition was filed by a group of utilities, including IPL and Duke Energy, asking for relief from lost revenue due to the pandemic. The second was from the office of the utility consumer counselor, asking for extensions on ratepayer protections. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission combined those petitions into one case, which the state will investigate in two phases.

The first phase will address disconnections, utility fees, and customer payment arrangements. During the second phase, the utilities will have to show the pandemic has caused them to lose money. But the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor — which represents customers in these type of cases — says this is beyond normal requests of this kind.

“Utilities have collected bad debt costs through rates for many mean years, so there are some things that are not unprecedented,” said OUCC Spokesperson Anthony Swinger. “When you talk about the lost revenue request though, that’s really getting into unprecedented ground and it would create a very high bar that the utilities would have to clear.”

Disconnections are banned through the end of June. The IURC wants to have a decision on disconnections, and relief for customers, before then.

If you would like to comment on the case, you can do so online, by mail and by e-mail.

Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The yard signs that scatter lawns in Geist Harbour, near East 79th Street and Fall Creek Road, show pride in their community.

They support health care workers, celebrate students and thank employees. But, some people were upset when the property owners’ association (POA) asked them to take the signs down.

Brent Holverson’s daughter got a sign from her school, for sixth-grade graduation.

“She was very happy to get it. She was really happy to get it,” Holverson said. “So it’s kind of a cool thing in a crazy time to be able to showcase for the sixth-graders as opposed to what they weren’t able to do at school.”

When he heard online others had been asked by the POA to take their signs down, he was not happy.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Holverson said. “I’m all about a homeowners association and kind of keeping things clean and cool, but this is something that’s special to the kids. Crazy times definitely call for different measures.”

Just a few houses down from the Holversons, a sign sits in a neighbor’s yard. Debbie Baker got hers from the school where she works as a counselor.

“I loved it because it showed that they appreciated what everyone was doing,” Baker said. “Because this is a different way to try to connect with your kids and the teachers are trying to teach kids in a whole new way. So, we loved being appreciated.”

Neither the Bakers nor the Holversons have heard from the POA about their signs. I-Team 8 reached out to the POA, and got a following statement a few hours later.

“We are in the process of informing our residents to ignore any violation letters regarding COVID related yard signage. Our intent was to respond to complaints from some residents about the springtime proliferation of yard signs, which is the usual protocol for our covenant enforcement. We believe that we underestimated the significance and importance of these sign displays, and apologize if our actions appeared insensitive and uncaring. That was not our intention. We were simply trying to discharge our responsibility of covenant enforcement to the best of our ability.”

Susan Lew, president, Geist Harbour Property Owners Association

Indiana coronavirus timeline

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Ten utilities, including Indianapolis Power & Light and Duke Energy, have filed a petition with the state about lost revenue due to coronavirus. It is the first step they need to take before asking for a rate increase.

The companies claim the pandemic and “related government orders have resulted in significantly reduced load and revenues for some utilities.” They also said costs increased because of overtime, sick time and employee sequestration.

Kerwin Olson with the Citizens Action Coalition is not happy about this petition.

“We found it simply outrageous,” Olson said. “Hoosiers struggle with record unemployment, food and housing insecurity, other financial instability as it relates to the pandemic. It’s really unconscionable to us that utility companies would come forth with a proposal to allow them to collect money for energy they didn’t sell.”

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission recently approved a rate hike for IPL, and Duke was already looking for a rate increase.

The Indiana Energy Association, which represents the companies on the filing, insists this is not a request to raise rates, but instead to defer costs associated with the pandemic.

The association sent I-Team 8 the following statement:

“We know that this is a financial as well as a health crisis, and Indiana’s major utilities have voluntarily suspended disconnections for non-payment and taken other actions to help their customers from the very beginning. The moratorium on disconnects is still in effect, and if a customer is having difficulty paying their bill, we encourage them to contact their local utility to see what options may be available. Utilities have been offering unprecedented flexibility as it relates to payment plans, and we want to help customers get through this challenging time.

“As an essential service required to provide electric power to our customers 24/7, utilities have a responsibility to notify state utility regulators about significant financial impacts. The filing the utilities made at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is not a request to raise rates-it is a request to separately account for and defer costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. If the commission grants the request, then separate proceedings in the future would deliberate the costs and any rate impacts. At least 29 states have seen similar regulatory actions, and the list is growing as issues for energy customers and our industry are ongoing.”

The Indiana Energy Association

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is asking that the suspension of disconnections extend beyond the current June 4 deadline.