INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- At a time when the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's (IMPD) public image has taken a beating, from the families of murder victims who claim investigators don’t do enough to solve cases to critics who are upset about the fatal police action shooting of an unarmed fleeing driver last summer, the mother of one murdered man said homicide detectives made good on their pledge to track down her son’s killer.
“I really want to thank Detective David Miller and his staff for basically IMPD Homicide for doing an excellent job as far as finding my son’s murderer,” said Lucille Samuels. “I commend them for doing such an excellent job, going out, doing their homework, doing their legwork, whatever they did.”
Keith Williams was Indianapolis’ 117th homicide victim for the year on Sept. 19 at 1015 North Grant Avenue, though his body wouldn’t be discovered for another day.
Since that time, approximately 40 more murders have happened in the city putting Indianapolis on a pace to equal or surpass its record homicide totals for the last couple years.
IMPD’s clearance rate this year is approximately 40 percent. Metro homicide detectives consider a case cleared when a suspect is arrested, is already in jail, dead or when investigators are certain they know who committed the killing but lack enough evidence for the prosecutor to successfully try and win the case.
“We have some tremendous detectives in our homicide branch and we have lost some experience in there, but I think that the people that we have in there are really good at their jobs and they work really hard every day to try to bring justice to these cases,” said IMPD Deputy Chief of Investigations Chris Bailey.
After viewing surveillance video, reviewing text messages and talking to neighbors and family, IMPD was able to arrest Christopher Reed, 19, for the Williams murder.
“He had been a mentor to him and he had Keith listed in his phone as Uncle, so if you call this man your uncle, how can you kill him like this? What kind of coward are you?” asked Corythia Davis, who discovered her cousin’s body.
Samuels said she told Detective Miller she would empty out her 401k to finance the hunt for her son’s killer.
“'Mrs. Samuels, you don’t have to do that,’” she recalled the detective telling her. "'I have what I need, and I’m gonna make sure Keith, even now, I’m gonna make sure that he get justice.'”
IMPD homicide detectives have found themselves frustrated by witnesses and friends of murder victims who won’t cooperate with investigators, either in fear of retaliation or because of an “every-man-for-himself” mindset.
“I try to put myself in their shoes,” said Bailey. “It's an easy question for me to answer if my kid witnesses something. You’re darn right they’re gonna be in that interview room and tell everything they know, but their experience is different than mine; their experience is different than my kids'. I don’t have to send my kids back to the same schools they have to go to that may be with some of these suspects.”
One such frustration is the still unsolved murder of 13-year-old Matthew McGee near Castleton Square Mall in September as police said parents told their young teenage children to not cooperate with investigators.
Fairley Griffie’s friends understand that reluctance to go on the record. Griffie was gunned down in the parking lot of a west side apartment complex after leaving a party last June.
IMPD has issued a warrant for his alleged killer.
Recently Griffie’s friends gathered at his mother’s house to release balloons on what would have been his 20th birthday and were confronted with the question about what would they do if they were witnesses to another friend’s murder.
“I’d be willing to talk to their parents about it,” said one youth who admitted he would not talk to police. “I don’t want to be putting myself in that situation.”
“There’s gonna be a point at time where people are gonna have to start speaking up about what’s going on, what’s really going on,” said another youth. “There’s too many people dying for nothing really out here. It needs to stop. It needs to stop for real. Over little things, too.”
“Just stay to yourself,” was the advice of another young man. “Just stay to yourself, that’s the best way to be.”
“Don’t try to be the next man,” chimed in a friend. “Follow your own dreams. Don’t try to live in somebody else’s shoes.”
Griffie’s friends asked not to be identified because the victim’s own gun was stolen the night of the shooting, “and it still might be out there.”
“You do have to live in a certain neighborhood but you don’t have to be afraid,” said Samuels. “I’m asking you, if you’re out there and you know something about a murder case, please, call the police department. Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out because there are too many of our young black men are dying at the hands of guns.”
Williams' murder set off a fatal domino effect.
Ten days later, at a repast in Williams’ memory, Kirk Shurill was shot to death for supposedly squealing his tires in the parking lot outside the hall where the dead man’s family and friends had gathered for a meal.
Police have also issued a warrant for his alleged killer.