2017 Crime wrap: Tracking Indianapolis homicides

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — 2017 will go down as the deadliest year on record in the Circle City. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) investigated 175 homicides as of December 28th, out of those, 152 have been deemed “criminal.”

The murders happened all across the city. According to an IMPD report released in early December, the City’s northeast district saw the highest percentage of murders:

  • 3% Downtown
  • 14% Northwest
  • 12% Southwest
  • 17% Southeast
  • 23% North
  • 32% Northeast

In most of these murders, the victim died by gunshot.

Unsolved Murders:

That same December IMPD report found that in 71-percent of murders, police did not know the relationship between the suspect and the victim, and the motive behind the violence has never been discovered.

Four-percent of victims were killed by strangers, six-percent by family member or someone they lived with, and about one in five times the victim was killed by a friend or acquaintance.

These devastating crimes have left families and loved ones without answers for months on end, hoping that some day there would be a break in the case.

In January, Ammar Shatnawi and Wesam Sammour were working at a Jordan’s Fish & Chicken location when two hooded men with guns hopped the counter and killed them.

“I can’t get out of my mind the way they got killed, and for no reason,” said restaurant owner Mike Saadeh shortly after the crime occurred.

IMPD released surveillance video showing the two attackers, but they have not been identified since that fatal shooting.

Surveillance video captured two suspects in the May triple shooting that resulted in the death of two high school students. Dijon Anderson, 18, and Angel Mejia-Alfaro, 17, attended Warren Central High School and did not survive the deadly attack in a west side parking lot. Loved ones believe people know who’s responsible but haven’t come forward with the information needed to solve the case.

Investigators are still trying to figure out who shot Jenny Boltinghouse and dumped her body in the White River. Fisherman discovered her near the Indianapolis Zoo, but how she died and who did it remains a mystery.

Two people were shot and killed around the same Indianapolis apartment complex within a matter of weeks of one another, leaving neighbors concerned about their safety.

Fisherman found the body of Kobi Walden, 31, in may. Someone shot Walden and tucked his body away in the woods behind an apartment complex near Highway 31 and Southport Road.

The following month, Erin Mills, 34 and her fiancé were shot in the parking lot of that same apartment complex. Her fiancé survived, but Mills died from her injuries. The two cases have never been linked but they’re both unsolved.

The list of unsolved murders goes on from there.

“It has become more difficult to get people to cooperate,” said IMPD Detective Tom Lehn in an interview in October 2017, “there used to be lines in the sand that weren’t cross when children were hurt, teenagers were hurt, or women were hurt or killed and that was something people were willing to talk about—and these days you don’t get that at all.”

As fall of 2017 rolled around, officials reported a 43-percent clearance rate for criminal homicides, meaning in less than half of the cases, detectives knew who did it even if they couldn’t necessarily charge the killer. By that same period, prosecutors reported a 75-percent conviction rate against murder suspects for murder or a lesser felony charge.

“It’s unfortunate that criminals, no matter who they are, get away with crime when we know they did it. But that’s just the way it works. It’s disappointing,” said Deputy Chief Chris Bailey.

Teenage Victims & Suspects:

As of December 10, 2017, IMPD recorded 9 juvenile victims and eight suspects under the age of 18. Local officials are still gathering figures to add in end-of-year arrests and charges filed.

But for many families, 2017 will end without closure.

“It was just like a feeling I can never explain again,” said Christa Frazier, “my heart just dropped to the ground and I just ran out the door.”

On May 7th, Frazier received a phone call no mother ever wants to receive. Her 18-year-old son Dijon and two classmates from Warren Central High School had been shot in a strip mall parking lot. Dijon initially survived, but died in the hospital two weeks later. Seventeen year-old Angel Mejia-Alfaro died at the scene.

“Due to this violence, this gun violence, these senseless homicides I have to live my life without my son being able to live out his dreams,” Frazier added.

Dijon was just weeks away from graduating high school and playing football at the University of Southern Illinois. The night someone shot him, he had just finished work and was picked up by a few friends. The suspects have never been caught, and police released a blurry surveillance photo showing two individuals near the scene at the time of the shooting.

Christa Frazier isn’t alone. She has seen, and even known, other families who experienced the loss of a child in 2017.

“It’s hard. It’s just a hard situation not to know what happened to a loved one or who was responsible.”

The first young victim of gun violence in 2017 died in January after gunshots erupted outside of a Popeyes restaurant on 16th street. Family called 14-year-old Anthony Hughes “Bug baby” and remembered his love of basketball and school. IMPD promised Hughes’ family and the community they’d work hard to find his killer, but the case is still unsolved.

Montel Ligon, 17, died outside of an east-side church. Someone shot him multiple times and police never publicly identified a suspect or made any arrests.

Several months later, Sema J. Jordan, 15, was shot in an alley off the 900 block of West 35th Street. Investigators say he died of at least one gunshot wound.

“The only thing I can say is try to take care of your kids, try to protect your children,” said Sema’s father, James Jordan in an interview in April.

A middle school student died in September after someone shot him outside Castleton Square Mall. Matthew McGee, 13, was shot in the head in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in front of the mall. Investigators said they recovered shell casings and surveillance video from the restaurant but had difficulty getting witness accounts.

This October, 15-year-old Kevin Rainey died a few feet away from the house where he was supposed to be sleeping. They discovered his body near a gas station where the teen was reportedly jumped two weeks prior. Rainey’s killer is still unknown.

IMPD calls it a YOLO culture—you only live once. This year police are noticing young victims and suspects of violent crime.

“It’s this mentality that you only live once,” said public information officers with IMPD, Sgt. Chris Wilburn, “So that’s the mentality that some of our youth are being encouraged to participate in and it sounds unorthodox, and it sounds strange to us as adults but this is the kind of conversation kids are having with each other and they’re having those conversations with law enforcement as well.”

Teens and young suspects have been tied to some of the biggest crimes of 2017.

Lesley Mena, 17, will go to trial next January for the murder of an Indianapolis woman near Riverside Park. Police believe jealous motivated her to stab the woman to death.

Sixteen-year-old Jordan Marin-Doan faces murder and arson charges after prosecutors say he set his house on fire and killed his adoptive father. But not all crimes are so personal.

Five teens and young adults are tied to the triple homicide and drug robbery at the Somerset Lakes Apartments including: a 15-year-old suspect, Stanley Williams, 18, Devante Gilbert, 18, Martell Williams, 18 and Troy Ward, 18.

Prosecutors believe it started as a drug robbery, but in an attempt to allegedly steal marijuana and money, Dominique Miller, 25, Jordan Wright, 25, and Justin Crowder were shot and killed.

“So it really is a different mindset. I don’t know if we as a police department understand it yet, but one of the things we do know is they converse actively on social media, showing pictures of guns and money,” said IMPD Chief Bryan Roach.

A February SWAT standoff lead to the arrest of two teenagers accused of killing Jacob Arnett, 20, over drugs. Police say Arnett died in his own home after trying to seek help from a neighbor.

And this month, investigators connected an 18-year-old and 15-year-old to the November murder of a prominent Indianapolis doctor. Ka’Ron Bickham Hurst, 18, and the juvenile are accused of breaking into Dr. Kevin Rodgers house to burglarize him, during the burglary, investigators believe the teens killed him.

Indianapolis police and the prosecutor’s office continue to look into each one of these cases and urges anyone with information to come forward to find resolution for these victim’s families.

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