As IMPD cracks down on reckless driving, family of man killed in crash shares impact of loss

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) has ramped up its efforts to target reckless and aggressive driving across the Circle City.

Indianapolis is no exception to a trend that’s been reported both statewide and nationwide when it comes to an increase in traffic deaths. Statewide, since the start of the pandemic, the number of traffic fatalities increased by about 8%, outpacing the national increase.

In Marion County, from 2019 to 2020, the number of traffic fatalities spiked by 31% and IMPD is working to target hotspots for reckless driving across the city in hopes of preventing one more fatal crash.

Just last week, a deadly crash on the city’s near northeast side due to the actions of a reckless driver, claimed the life of a beloved football coach, identified as 30-year-old Tony Holmes Jr.

“He was an amazing, amazing son. You couldn’t ask for a better son, but I could go even further than that. You couldn’t ask for a better friend, a better cousin,” said his father, Tony Holmes Sr.

“Man, Tony could just brighten up anyone’s day, any situation, no matter what,” said Ivory Hemingway, a longtime friend, former teammate and fellow coach of Tony. “He didn’t just care about himself. He cared about the community and it’s always wonderful to have people like that around and to lose someone like that, it’s a blow to the community.”

According to IMPD, on Nov. 10, an officer attempted to stop a driver for an alleged traffic violation on E. 38th Street in between the 2300 and 2400 blocks. The driver reportedly didn’t stop, instead, fleeing from the officer at a high rate of speed, according to police, who said the officer did not pursue.

A short distance later, surveillance video shows the driver failed to stop at a traffic light, went through the intersection and struck three other vehicles, including Tony’s. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tony’s loved ones say he coached youth football for the Take Flight Football Academy and was on his way to practice when his life was taken. Normally, the team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to a fellow coach, but they added a practice that night in preparation for an upcoming tournament.

“It’s a very tragic situation. It’s important to take into account the safety of others because you know, Tony was on his way to show unconditional love to those kids that he coaches out of the kindness of his heart, time away from his family and now there’s a void in our community because of someone’s bad decisions,” said Hemingway.

Hemingway said Tony volunteered as a coach for four years in the program and loved giving back more than anything.

“He didn’t have any children out there, but he went out there and gave unconditional love to all of those boys and we actually had some young girls out there too that played football as well,” said Hemingway, who also mentioned Tony was like a father figure to some of the children who didn’t have a father figure at home.

“His excitement is pouring back to the children that played football and he would always talk about the team; you know the growth that they had from the first year they started,” said Holmes Sr.

As Tony’s loved ones prepare to lay him to rest this weekend, his team will travel to compete in a tournament in Tennessee.

“We know that coach Tony is looking down on us and he wants us to send his boys to go play football and we’ll certainly do something for him and his family when we get back and we’re gonna honor coach Tony when we go to Knoxville,” said Hemingway.

Holmes Sr. said he called his son “Little Tony” and was so proud of what he accomplished in his 30 years. He takes some comfort in knowing he was doing what he loved up until his final moments.

While Holmes Sr. hasn’t allowed himself to be angry about what happened, he said he is saddened that he lost his son to something so preventable and he wants this to serve as a reminder of what can happen when people drive recklessly on the road.

“The impact that that one can action can do, can just impact so many people and that’s what’s happening now, is there’s so many people that’s being impacted by that one thing that happened, that should have never happened,” said Holmes Sr.

FOX59 learned the man who allegedly caused the crash has died as a result of his injuries. His identity has not been released.

IMPD works to crack down on reckless drivers

IMPD said the implications of crashes caused by reckless driving are not only potentially life-changing to victims, but also those who cause them and their families as well.

“I’ve been investigating fatal crashes for over 20 years and the devastation that they caused not just on the victim but the victim’s family and even the suspect and the suspect’s family, because I don’t really believe the majority of people go out there with the intention of hurting somebody,” said Fred Ilnicki, captain of IMPD’s Traffic Division, “What it does, it’s just as devastating to them. They don’t realize the lives they’ve changed, including their own.”

The department shared, it’s focusing on areas like school zones and also spots where speeding and reckless driving have been a problem, to help encourage people to slow down and be more cognizant of others on the road.

Since Sept. 10, officers with IMPD’s Traffic Division have increased enforcement in school zones with the priority of focusing on the safety of not only the children, but also adults, parents and teachers going to and from the schools, but also the traveling public.

“People don’t realize that they are putting themselves in danger as well as other people, whether it’s pedestrians and cars, so number one priority for this stepped up enforcement is for public safety,” said Ilnicki.

“Number two, our hope is to modify driving behavior and to get people to think a little bit about what they’re doing, think outside of just the hood ornament of their car and look ahead and just really modify what they’re doing, understanding that speeding on a city street really isn’t going to increase their travel time by that much,” he said.

Often times, the violators Ilnicki said they see in school zones are speeders, people suddenly changing lanes, distracted drivers, and even people who are tailgating others.

“People need to step back and think, is it really worth the risk I’m putting somebody else in for myself in,” he said.

Since Sept. when IMPD officers with the Traffic Division increased their school zone enforcement, they’ve worked 251 hours, stopped 1,088 cars, issued warnings to 155 drivers and issued 1,363 tickets, according to IMPD.

It’s important to keep in mind that a traffic stop could result in multiple citations issued, which is why the number of tickets written is more than the number of stops conducted. The number of citations issued also doesn’t include possible drivers who may be operating with a license suspended prior. Individuals could be summonsed to court on those charges.

“With the number of drivers that we have in the city, it’s really, we’re touching a small percentage,” said Ilnicki. “Sooner or later people need to start taking personal responsibility for their own driving in the way they’re behaving in public.”

In addition to IMPD’s school zone enforcement efforts, the department also continues to enforce “Operation Slow Down” in certain areas of the city that have seen incidents related to speeding and reckless driving.

The operation deploys officers on overtime Thursday through Sunday nights during peak complaint hours to focus on areas like the 38th Street corridor, a spot of many complaints and several deadly crashes over the last few years.

The initiative currently exists in North, Northwest and Southeast Districts, which have all had several fatal accidents each year, IMPD said.

Each district also reportedly has seen criminal activities in the parking lots where drivers congregate, according to police. This includes minor offenses all the way to criminal homicide.

As a result of their efforts, IMPD said since June 25, officers with Operation Slow Down have arrested 53 people, worked more than 527 hours, warned 510 drivers and issued 337 tickets.

“We have to, as a society, take personal responsibility in what we’re doing as we are interacting with other people because at the end of the day if I hurt somebody, if you hurt somebody, if somebody hurt somebody, we are responsible, it’s nobody else’s fault,” said Ilnicki. “My opinion, I think there’s a lot of people who have not come upon that reality. I think they still just think of it as it’s a traffic thing.”

IMPD said Operation Slow Down and its increased enforcement efforts will continue through the holiday season and that new operations area already planned for the new year.

Anyone with a traffic complaint or who would like to ask for additional patrols in an area near you is asked to go to this link, where you can report an issue anonymously. You can also mention a specific location, issue and the time of day it happens and provide information for police to respond to that complaint.

IMPD also received a $1.5 million grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, which awarded traffic safety grants to law enforcement departments to conduct overtime patrols and implement strategies to address reckless driving in Indiana.

The grant received by the department was the largest of all agencies in the state and the federal dollars were awarded by the ICJI to conduct high visibility patrols that address dangerous and impaired driving issues such as speeding, seatbelt usage and distracted driving.

A spokesperson for IMPD told FOX59, “With the help of this recent funding from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, IMPD will be able to ramp up our efforts to curb reckless driving. In the coming weeks, IMPD will determine how these funds best will be used to address traffic enforcement throughout our city.”

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