Police in Indy prepare for Fourth of July celebrations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- IMPD officers said Dominick Smith, 23, was “rolling dirty” through downtown with two loaded weapons, a handgun, an AK-47 and a Mason jar containing marijuana when he was pulled over in the 300 block of South Meridian Street early Sunday morning.

The guns were legal, but the marijuana was not. Smith’s arrest was a result of IMPD walking beats and more aggressive street patrols in the city’s downtown entertainment districts.

“With that beat policing we are able to identify that if we had a vulnerability for violent crime this weekend it would be in the entertainment zones, the areas nearest the bars,” said IMPD Downtown Commander Chad Knecht. “We were able to deploy officers in the right areas, give them direction to look at all the different issues and concerns going on and make lawful stops for traffic violations, engage the public, ask questions and, in doing so, they were able to make a traffic stop and identify a suspect carrying illegal narcotics and firearms.”

On race weekend, hours before the green flag dropped at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Knecht and his officers arrested three men for the shootings of four people in a parking garage adjacent to the bar district.

The gunmen had walked past a police officer moments before the shots were fired.

Knecht said the shooting incident and this past weekend’s arrest prove IMPD, and downtown bar owners, are right to be concerned about potential trouble in the heart of the city.

“Obviously it's an issue of concern if we have someone rolling through Meridian Street and a crowded entertainment district with a loaded rifle and a handgun,” he said.

Orlando, Florida Mayor Buddy Dyer told the 84th Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Indianapolis Sunday afternoon that the tragedy that unfolded inside the Pulse nightclub in his town two weeks ago could easily be visited upon any of them.

“We live in a new world,” said Dyer. “A world that any one of our cities could be the site of this kind of intentional mass casualty event. A world where each one of our cities needs to be better prepared to respond to this type of incident.”

Indy bar owners heard the message, too, and have worked with IMPD to better protect their patrons and train their staffs on how to handle an active shooter incident.

“When Orlando kicked off there was a lot of fear and apprehension, we already had those relationships built,” said Knecht, “so, we immediately started doing crisis response training, active shooter training, with the establishments, with all the staff in the bars, putting that training out.”

The manager of Indiana’s largest gay bar, The Metro on Mass Ave, met with Knecht and his staff to bring her people up to speed on active observation and how to respond to a threat.

“We’ve made sure that the police department has information about our building,” said Ruth Hawkins.  “Where are the keys? Where are the exits? Where are the rest rooms? Our building layout so if there were to be an issue in here, they don’t have to come in and look for the exits and the building plans. They already have them.”

Hawkins said several bars along the Mass Ave. entertainment district will host fundraisers Thursday night to donate proceeds and tips to the staff at the Pulse who are out of work due to the shooting which killed 49 people.

Knecht said IMPD is actively preparing to saturate downtown with a police presence to protect hundreds of thousands Fourth of July celebrants expected to attend the annual fireworks display one week from tonight and keep troublemakers at bay.

“We stay on top of the intelligence as much as we can and be prepared for those, what groups may not be getting along, what individuals may have a problem, what existing problems are there, try to recognize those,” he said. “We have had incidents where our detectives are monitoring social media, have gotten clues to incidents or people are having conflicts or spreading word about things and we intervene before it ever occurs.”

Knecht hopes the recent arrests will send a message to potential combatants to leave their guns at home or risk apprehension before or after trouble jumps off.

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