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Clergy members call for change after man dies in police custody

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis clergy groups are sounding the alarm after a man died in police custody in April.

Faith in Indiana and several other groups are calling for the Indianapolis police officers involved to be fired and charged.

“We think it’s necessary that the officers be held accountable, that the officers responsible for his death, be fired,” said Richard Reynolds, pastor at New Revelation Church.

Reynolds said the demands don’t stop with the police.

“We are calling for the mayor and for the city to have a sense of urgency, a renewed sense of urgency, around the need for taking the model we have in place for MCAT, the Mobile Crisis Assistance Team, and taking it to the next level. It’s something but it’s still woefully inadequate,” Reynolds said.

Their calls for change come after the death of Herman Whitfield III, who was a well-known member of the Indianapolis arts community.

“Because of his gifts and his talents, he was a musical savant and now he’s gone. We will never hear him play again and it is a tragedy,” Reynolds said.

Whitfield died in April while in police custody. Police say they responded to a disturbance where they say Whitfield’s father said his son was having a psychosis and asked for an ambulance.

Police said Whitfield was walking around the house when he moved toward an officer. That officer deployed his taser twice.

Whitfield was then put in handcuffs. When medics asked him to roll over, he did not respond.

He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Reynold said he believes the situation would have been different if mental health professionals responded to the scene instead of police.

“Who are you supposed to call if you can’t call the police for help? It’s a sad day in our city when a family says you know what I need to call the ambulance and not the police because I am fearful the police will kill my son and that is exactly what has happened,” Reynolds said.

Clergy members want their demands met by next summer.

The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. Those officers were wearing body cameras during the call. The footage has not yet been released.

IMPD released a statement on Twitter on Monday.