INDIANAPOLIS — Bill Mummert said he’s seen the surveillance video of a gun battle in a downtown parking lot in the 200 block of South Meridian Street last Sunday morning.
“It was the wild west back here,” he said. “There were several windows shot out, cars shot out.”
IMPD said it has not yet made any arrests in the gunfight that left dozens of shell casings littering a parking lot and bullet holes in the upper floors of a condominium loft and a hotel overlooking the Wholesale District.
No one was injured.
“Its definitely gonna hinder business, stopping people from coming downtown to spend their money, especially for conventions, and everything else will follow,” said Mummert who has worked downtown in the hospitality industry for two years. “If things like this continue happening, especially over the summer, less people are gonna come downtown, less money for businesses, businesses are gonna shut down and the domino effect is just gonna make downtown what is was in 1984.”
That the shootout happened just a block from IMPD’s Downtown District headquarters on a stretch of street where on-duty officers patrol and off-duty officers work at the doors to the bars indicates that gunmen who have brazenly fired off weapons and occasionally wounded each other in the early morning weekend hours for the past couple years are not intimidated by the presence of law enforcement.
“We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars…when I say hundreds of thousands of dollars…we’re probably in the millions as well now over the last few years…protecting a small bit of area downtown for one reason and one reason only…people go to bars and act like fools,” said IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey, “and it has to stop.”
Bailey said the solution to the downtown bar district public safety dilemma is three-fold: a stepped up IMPD presence, more code and ordinance enforcement by city partners and peer pressure among the business community.
“We utilize our Nuisance Abatement, we’re gonna work with Bureau of Neighborhood Services, Excise Police, the Fire Marshal, Zoning or Department of Metropolitan Development for parking lot issues and people who own those parking lots who seem to think that its our responsibility for protection of their moneymaking business,” he said. “We can go to the same group of people, a multi-disciplinary group, not just law enforcement, go to the same group, city prosecutors office, all those entities, and put pressure from an administrative way.”
Bailey said law enforcement will put more officers on the streets in and around downtown.
“The State Police has offered assistance on the weekends,” he said. “We’re gonna try to increase our presence. Utilize multiple things. We’re gonna try to divert our DUI grants officers as much as they can along areas that bring people into downtown, DUI checkpoints in downtown Indianapolis, we’re gonna utilize undercover officers both from the Downtown District and other ways through the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, we’re gonna bring other officers in from the other districts as long as we don’t deplete the neighborhoods.”
So far this year, in downtown Indianapolis, IMPD has taken 25 stolen gun reports and recovered 37 firearms including two seized this past weekend.
“Bringing guns downtown and leaving them in your car is a terrible idea,” said Bailey. “In fact, I would say it’s a stupid idea. Don’t do it because you’re leaving your gun out for someone to steal.”
While 19 of the city’s 42 downtown surveillance cameras are not functioning, Bailey said reliance on private and state government cameras has augmented IMPD’s ability to monitor the Mile Square and gather evidence of crimes.
“There are hundreds of cameras downtown that we have access to. We have our city owned cameras. There are 56 B.Link lenses downtown,” he said. “You pretty much can’t walk anywhere without being on camera for some reason.”
IMPD has refused to release surveillance video footage of last weekend’s shootout.
Bailey said during the COVID-19 pandemic, bars flagrantly violated Marion County Public Health emergency orders regarding capacity and hours of operation, willing instead to pay a $2500 fine.
“I bet if I went down to a lot of the bars, not just in that area, I bet they have no public safety plan, I bet they have problems with egress and ingress so if there’s an emergency, how are people gonna get out of there, I bet their fire suppression systems haven’t been updated, all these things are important for public safety.
“Are you overserving people that can be taken advantage of in multiple ways? Are you putting people in danger inside your building because you’re overserving, you’re overcrowding it and you don’t have the proper exits for people to get out in case there’s, God forbid, a mass shooting or a fire or some other emergency that happens inside your business? These businesses need to think about these things, it’s not just about money.”
Bill Mummert agrees that downtown business owners need to take a hard look at themselves and their neighbors for solutions.
“There’s voice in numbers and I believe if they all get together and present their case and if they say how it’s affecting their business.”