14-year-old boy dies after east side shooting, 12th victim of homicide under 18 in Indy in 2021


INDIANAPOLIS — Family members of a teenage boy who fought for his life after a double-shooting on Indy’s east side are heartbroken after he died from his injuries nearly two weeks later.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) said officers responded to a report of a person shot in the 1800 block of Wellington Avenue on Oct. 11.

When police arrived, they located two people inside an apartment who had been shot. Both were taken to area hospitals, where one victim was listed as stable and the other critical.

The 14-year-old boy, whose injuries were considered critical, died almost two weeks after the shooting as a result of his injuries. He has been identified as Timothy Morris, or “TJ” Morris, as his loved ones call him.

“He fought. He fought for my sister, he really did, but you know, the lord wanted him to come home ,” said TJ’s aunt, Kimberly Vardiman.

Vardiman said what she’ll miss most about TJ is his smile and his personality she described as ‘goofy.’

“He’s just a child that likes to play so much,” said Vardiman. “It’s always this smile that he does and I’m going to miss it so much.”

“He could crack a joke, he was gonna make you smile and you were going to love him after that,” Vardiman added.

IMPD said homicide detectives responded to the scene on Oct. 11 and began their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Now, IMPD said detectives have been able to identify everyone involved in the incident and that it remains an active, ongoing investigation.

Still, family members of TJ said they want to know what led up to this and why someone shot him.

“He really wasn’t a bad child, I mean, for the last couple of months he started, you know, getting into little stuff, which normal boys do but he didn’t deserve to you know, get shot multiple times,” said Vardiman. “He was only 14.”

Vardiman said she knows there are people out there who know what happened to TJ and her family feels those people owe it to her nephew to do the right thing and come forward with any information.

“All the people that was there with him and not speaking up, nor saying that they don’t know what exactly happened, we’re not understanding, like one of y’all can be a good friend to him, or good brother, good sister, whatever you call him, y’all can speak up and say something,” said Vardiman.

“Y’all are taking an effort to write it on social media, now take the effort to make the phone call for my nephew. That’s all I’m asking, that’s all I want,” she pleaded.

Since the start of the year, IMPD said there have been 12 victims of homicide under the age of 18 in Indianapolis.

“The violence, it needs to stop. I mean, not just because my nephew’s gone, it just needs to stop, period,” said Vardiman. “Should no parent have to bury their child, not at this age, anyway.”

“When we talk about these numbers, these are people, these are lives that are unnecessarily impacted by the outcome of these violent events,” said Kendale Adams, Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations for IMPD. “It is a tremendous impact on our community when someone is shot, even greater when someone is killed.”

There have also been 68 juvenile victims of nonfatal shootings in Indianapolis since the beginning of 2021, according to IMPD.

“It’s troubling to see that 68. It’s indicative of the trend, of the unfortunate trend we’ve seen in our city, as it relates to the rise in violence,” said Adams. “I think what it speaks to is a bigger issue in our community. It speaks to a lack of appropriate services for young people in terms of conflict resolution.”

Adams said Indianapolis is a very resource-heavy city, with programs already engaging their community resource office and youth services like the PAL program, however he believes more has to be done.

“But it’s not enough, we need to have a significant conversation around what are we doing to provide the tools for parents as it relates to their young people,” said Adams. “This is not to cast aversions on juveniles. I think there are a lot of juveniles that are doing the right things or on the fringes and engaged in mentoring programs that can steer them in the right direction.”

Adams feels there is a gap that needs to be addressed, not only from a law enforcement perspective, but from a social service perspective.

“We are a resource-rich city and there are several programs within our city and they do a good job. We need to funnel dollars, we need to funnel support, and the police department needs to partner with them to really have an impact,” said Adams. “The reality is, by the time the police department’s gotten involved, it’s too late. We’re typically a response-driven service.”

“If we partner with services that are out there dealing with youth in an effective way, then maybe we can have an impact,” said Adams. “This needs to be a conversation with our community and youth service providers.”

Adams said although he is new to the seat he’s in as Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations, something that he’s looking at is how IMPD can continue building relationships with the community to help break the cycle of violence.

“As I say we, again, I’m not sitting here saying we’re going to solve the issue, but how do we strategically partner with services already in this space in the community and doing a good job?”

Adams said he also wants people to keep in mind the impact each and every incident of violent crime has on victims and their families, including nonfatal shootings.

“I’m pleading with those in the community that know of individuals that are committing violence to come forward and let someone of trusted resource in your community, let them know, so we can solve and arrest some of these individuals that don’t deserve to be walking on the streets,” said Adams.

“We’re just asking let us know something. It’s not wrong to let us know something,” said Vardiman.

There have been no arrests announced in the case. IMPD said the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office will review the case and make a charging decision.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact Detective Michael McWhorter at the IMPD Homicide Office at 317-327-3475 or by emailing him at Michael.McWhorter@indy.gov.

You can also remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-8477 (TIPS) or by submitting a tip via the mobile P3tips App. People who submit tips directly and anonymously to crime stoppers may be eligible for a cash reward up to $1,000 if the information leads to a felony arrest.

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