INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers Steven Sanchez and Adam Ahmad walked into a Marion Superior court in suits Friday.
It was their first appearance after being indicted for the death of Herman Whitfield III, who died April 25 while in police custody.
Each officer pleaded not guilty.
The judge set the bonds for each man at $15,000.
Sanchez and Ahmad are each facing multiple charges, including reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter, for their rolls in the death of Whitfield.
The Whitfield family called police last April because their son was having a mental health episode
Police tasered him and handcuffed him with his face on the ground. When paramedics arrived, Whitfield was unresponsive.
John Kautzman, the defense attorney for both officers, said, “They believe that they were following their training and acted with no illegality, or criminal intent.”
Because of this case, the Fraternal Order of Police wants IMPD to change its policy for who responds first to mental health calls. They said in a statement that paramedics and firefighters should be the first point of contact unless a crime is being committed.
I-Team 8 asked Kautzman if the officers had a message for the Whitfield family. He said, “Their heart has always gone out to the Whitfield family. They’re in the business of protecting the community and they put their lives on the line for citizens every day. They understand when a tragedy occurs. The question here isn’t whether or not this was a tragedy. It’s a question of whether or not they are legally responsible for that death.”
With the first step in the case out of the way, both sides will be preparing for a trial.
Kautzman said, “I want the community to reserve judgment until both sides have had a chance to present all the evidence at trial on whether or not this is a tragedy, or a criminal problem. We don’t think these officers are criminals,” said .
The trial was set for July 11, although judges commonly reset the initially scheduled dates for various reasons.