INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After six days of turmoil, the city on Tuesday heard words of grief from a family and promises of increased transparency from Indianapolis leaders after two fatal shootings by police that spurred protests and calls for change.
Wednesday marks a week since an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer shot and killed Dreasjon Reed after a pursuit with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Reed streamed the Wednesday night chase on Facebook Live. Police say Reed and an IMPD officer exchanged gunfire.
Hours later early Thursday morning, IMPD shot and killed burglary suspect McHale Rose. The department says Rose fired a shotgun at officers. Police also believe he may have called 911 in an attempt to ambush officers.
Groups have met to protest Reed’s shooting at the spot where he was killed since then, and police have passed the criminal investigation of the shooting to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. That investigation will have a special prosecutor and be monitored by federal authorities.
The two press conferences held less than an hour apart — one by the family of Dreasjon Reed, the other by Mayor Joe Hogsett — speak to the concerns and tension felt between police and communities in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett
“It is important at the beginning to acknowledge that last week saw a series of tragic circumstances occur in our city, Indianapolis. Those events resulted in the deaths of three of our citizens and understandable community concern that spilled into our streets,” Hogsett said.
The mayor said the changes announced — the addition of body cameras and a new committee that will include civilians to review cases of use of force — are part of the city’s “ongoing efforts to examine and improve police accountability and transparency.”
IMPD is the largest police department in the country without body cameras.
“Our police force deserves body-worn cameras. Our community deserves body-worn cameras. And after years of waiting, I am committed that this summer we will have body-worn cameras,” Hogsett said.
The department has been testing body cameras off and on for years. The latest test was last summer, when a handful of cops wore cameras during a 45-day trial period.
The results fell flat when the department and the Indianapolis City-County Council kicked the camera project down the road. The price tag for that system was estimated around $3 million.
“For more than a decade, our city has wanted to bring this now-common resource into our police force,” Hogsett said.
One of the hang-ups in bringing body cameras into IMPD has been technology. The mayor says the city has spent millions on upgrades to allow proper storage of video and voice recordings captured with body cameras.
The price tag for the body-worn camera system now totals $1.2 million. IMPD is expected to have every officer outfitted with a camera by this fall.
State laws dictate who can see video from those cameras and when it is released.
“There are provisions in it that would allow a chief to privately allow like a family member to view the video from a controversial use of force, if it is in the community’s best interest to do so,” said Lawrence Chief of Police David Hofmann.
Lawrence police already use a similar bodycam system from the same company. Their system records the officer when he or she leaves the car, starts running, pulls a weapon, or has fallen and needs assistance.
“So at any given time, I can see exactly where an officer was, what his speed was, his acceleration, his braking, if there is a quick acceleration. It is all in the system,” Hofmann said.
Demetree Wynn and Jamie Reed, parents of Dreasjon Reed
Demetree Wynn and Jamie Reed approached their son’s memorial, tears in their eyes, as they saw what the community had done for Dreasjon Reed. The memorial, put up overnight, was filled with messages to Reed, statements asking for justice and some words that, according to his parents, didn’t represent Dreasjon at all.
When his mother saw one picture with an anti-police message written on it, she asked for it to be removed.
“That’s not my son,” Demetree Wynn said. “My son didn’t believe that. So no matter what nobody say, he didn’t believe that, so take it off!”
Reed’s parents spoke to the public for the first time Tuesday because they say they don’t want his name and story to fade away. They used their time to let people know how they saw him as a person.
As she addressed the public, she described her son: “He loved to laugh and joke and play silly games. He’s always the entertainer. He’s the entertainer. He’s a protector. He’s a provider. If you needed it, my son would make sure you got it. That’s my son.”
Dozens of people showed up to hear more about the man who, according to his parents, was all smiles and put his heart first.
Having those smiles taken away at age 21 left his parents and a community in tears.
“They shouldn’t have did that,” Jamie Reed said. “This is ridiculous. They shouldn’t have did that. They shouldn’t have did that. It’s just not right.”
IMPD wasn’t mentioned directly, but Reed’s parents said they’ll stand up and keep fighting in Reed’s name to get justice for their son. But for justice to happen in the most painless way, they have asked others in the community to respect their son’s name.
“I don’t want anything to happen and to be connected to the memory of Dreasjon Reed,” Attorney Fatima Johnson said. “Because he was a peacemaker. He was. I don’t want this family to have to hurt anymore because something has been done in the name of Dreasjon Reed.”
The Reed family’s attorneys said justice will be found in the courtroom, and that they have a substantial amount of information to move forward.