INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The unprovoked attack on the steps of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument that left a Canadian visitor in a coma with head injuries last week has gotten the attention of IMPD commanders who admit they need a closer working relationship with Indiana State Capitol Police.
The assault last Thursday night was investigated by the division of the Indiana State Police which has authority over downtown state property such as the statehouse, the monument and the American Legion Mall.
“We need to figure out how we can better communicate, how we can get these things kind of nipped in the bud before they end up being five, six days out before we even know that there’s an issue,” said IMPD Sgt. Chris Wilburn after commanders learned the extent of the attack and the injuries following a story with the victim’s friend on Tuesday.
“IMPS officers responded as they would normally but they don’t have jurisdiction in terms of the physical location of the monument,” said Wilburn. “That’s actually state jurisdiction, specifically the Capitol Police.”
While Capitol Police through ISP released a media advisory on the attack after a CBS4 inquiry following our original story, Wilburn said IMPD aggravated assault detectives or other patrol officers, who were familiar with the suspect Jonathan Belcher who had a history of similar attacks, did not learn of the incident or his arrest for several days.
“We learned through a series of medical issues that the victim had so we learned later on but we have to be invited in.”
That’s because the steps of the monument fall into a gray area that is within IMPD’s downtown district but remain the purview of the Capitol Police force with 42 officers that is often pressed into security duties at the statehouse and other memorial sites.
As a result, while IMPD officers can respond to an acute incident, such as the original report of the monument attack, they are restricted in their ability to proactively patrol such state properties, such as the mall and its greenspace, to evict trespass violators or restrict access to conform with closing times at other city parks.
A working agreement is currently in the hands of the city’s attorneys to permit IMPD and Capitol police to work closer together on enforcement and patrols.
“From what I understand there is a communication with our state partners and law enforcement to come up with some sort of position and place for a place where we can, meaning the IMPD, where we can enforce laws on that particular piece of land,” said Wilburn. “There are gray areas that we know and the IMPD officers responding to those runs know who those bad actors are, they know the gray areas, and we’re trying to do our best to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.”
ISP Sgt. Rich Meyers said the commander of Capitol police confers every couple days with the downtown IMPD district commander about recent incidents or ongoing enforcement efforts.
“We’re going to do a better job,” said Wilburn. “It’s unfortunate that you have to find and uncover these things but we’re gonna get better and we’re gonna get down to the bottom line on this.”