INDIANAPOLIS — Video reviewed by FOX59 and an interview with a witness recalls the “total chaos” that followed the fatal shooting of a Dutch soldier in downtown Indianapolis last weekend as detectives continue their search for the man they’ve identified as the suspected shooter.
Simmie Poetsema, age 26, was shot to death, and two other soldiers were wounded as at least five gunshots were fired at the group as it returned to the Hampton Inn in the 100 block of South Meridian Street at 3:30 a.m. Saturday.
”It was after the nightclubs let out, and usually around that time there’s a lot of people intoxicated,” said a witness who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation. ”It was total chaos. It was total panic, total chaos. It surprised everybody.
”My first thought was, ‘There’s an active shooter in downtown Indianapolis.’”
The witness video recorded the gunshots, the immediate police response, the retreat of two wounded soldiers into the Hampton Inn and the account of a friend of the victim who said the group had been involved in a disturbance with “five people” outside of Invy Nightclub, a block and a half south of the hotel.
”I heard somebody say there was a fight up the street or there was an argument down the street,” said the witness. ”I heard somebody say, ‘They did a drive by.’ Somebody yelled that. ‘They did a drive by. They did a drive by. They’re not here anymore.’
”As soon as I heard shots, my goal was to find safety to try to make sure that I didn’t die.”
Detectives with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have collected surveillance video from a number of locations, including Invy Nightclub, as they piece together the investigation of the shooting that began with a sidewalk fight between the soldiers and a group of men in which one of the locals reportedly landed on the sidewalk.
Minutes later, a silver Ford F-150 rolled northbound on Meridian Street, slowing in front of the hotel as someone inside the vehicle began firing shots before the truck drove northbound and did a lap around Monument Circle.
IMPD detectives accessed city surveillance camera video and license plate reader data to track down the truck and its passengers.
Two men were questioned but not arrested by investigators who now have been joined by other law enforcement partners in the search for the known suspect.
”You gotta ask yourself, at that hour, just down the street from the police station, who would be so bold as to fire into a crowd of unarmed people and believe that they could get away with it?” asked the witness. ”How comfortable can people become in one of the most well-protected cities in the United States for someone to just stop in the middle of downtown and start killing people and believe that they could get away with this?”
Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren expressed concern Tuesday about gun violence in the United States in the aftermath of the shooting.
“We do many trainings of our servicemen in the United States, and we really don’t expect this to happen. So it’s very, very concerning for us.” Ollongren told The Associated Press at a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Prague.
The soldiers were in training at the Muscatatuk Urban Training Center in Jennings County.
Ollongren declined to comment on the shooting while investigations continue. She said there is “good contact” between Dutch military police and authorities in Indianapolis.
Ollongren said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin contacted her Monday “to express his regrets and his condolences.”
Besides responding to actual crimes and assigning more officers to walk the downtown bar district beat, IMPD said the city is powerless to rewrite state rules that would reduce bar hours or further restrict late-night drinking and the trouble it brings to the heart of Indianapolis.
”Local laws are prohibited from being used in regulating state-licensed alcohol businesses,” said IMPD Captain Chris Boomershine. ”We do see some business owners that do not have much regard for the law, and it’s all about money, and it’s all about profit. There’s a lot of money in the liquor industry.”
Shootings are not uncommon in the bar district in early-morning weekend hours.
In late June of last year, more than 50 shots were sprayed in the 200 block of South Meridian Street, damaging car, condominium and hotel windows.
In the wake of this past weekend’s killing and renewed concerns about downtown safety, another nightclub is set to open soon in the bar district.