INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) District Commander Rick Riddle was Officer Breann Leath’s boss on the east side, as well as her mentor at the IMPD Training Academy in 2018 when she entered as a recruit from a law enforcement and public service family with experience in the Indiana National Guard and the Indiana Department of Correction.
“I recognized her mom. I knew her father and I told the family on Day One that we would look after their daughter and we would do everything we could to protect her and get her through the program and to make her a wonderful officer which she turned out to be,” recalled Riddle.
“She told me it was her lifelong dream to be an IMPD officer and follow in the steps of her father who was a longtime deputy for the Marion County Sheriffs Department.”
Officer Leath was 24 years old and the mother of a little boy when she approached the third floor door of Apartment #10 at 1803 Edinburge Square in the Wellington Square Apartments Thursday afternoon.
Within minutes, IMPD reports Elliah Dorsey, 27, opened fire through that closed door, striking Officer Leath who tumbled backwards down the stairs and came to rest on a landing, mortally wounded.
There were at least eight bullet holes through that door and the adjoining wall, some of those bullets finding their way into the door and wall of an apartment across the hallway.
One neighbor told CBS4 that she heard Dorsey shout, “You called the police!” while another resident said she was alerted to Officer Leath tumbling down the steps and then heard IMPD officers regroup outside and re-enter the building to rescue the young patrolwoman as more heavily armed officers secured the third floor and eventually took Dorsey into custody.
“She answered the call, she went out there not knowing what was behind that door and it cost her her life,” said Riddle. “She loved this job, this is all she ever wanted to be. She understood the dangers and she didn’t back down even knowing that it could cost her her life, and her young son may not have Mommy anymore.”
Officer Leath signed on to IMPD in the midst of a hiring blitz in 2018 to roll back years of reduced or frozen recruit classes that reduced the department’s manpower to less than 1,500.
“That 16th Recruit Class was unique at the time because we had so many females that stepped up and answered that call and came forward and said, ‘I want to be a police officer for IMPD,’” said Riddle. “I feel like it was about eight or ten females in that class alone and for us at that time that was significant. For her to step up being a person of color during that time and say, ‘I want to be the police. I want to make a difference,’ that’s a huge step not only for Indianapolis but for police nationwide.”
Riddle said he cannot recall another female law enforcement officer of color ever losing her life in the line of duty in Marion County.
“Talking to her classmates and seeing her in action, I had a conversation earlier with one of her coworkers and they said, ‘You know, she tried to come out here every day and save the world.’ One run at a time she tried to make Indianapolis a better place.”
Riddle said Officer Leath’s compassion as a single mother helped her connect with the people who called on her for help every day.
“She no doubt made an impact in this community. She no doubt made East District a better place and she’ll be greatly missed.”
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, an hour after IMPD Chief Randall Taylor announced the death of his officer at Eskenazi Medical Center, another officer posted on the department’s Computer Aided Dispatch system, “Rest in peace, officer Leath. We’ll take it from here.”
Commander Riddle’s voice began to quaver only once during our interview when I asked him Officer Leath’s neighborhood beat number on the east side.
“She was in the 30s and her radio number was BAKER 233,” said Riddle. “And she answered every call.”
Riddle held roll call for Officer Leath’s fellow middle-shift officers at the IMPD Training Academy before releasing them as a group to proceed to the Marion County Coroners Office to accompany their fallen sister to Crown Hill Cemetery.
“Somebody will be in that neighborhood where she was yesterday patrolling the streets just like she did,” he said. “Our officers will step up, they will do the right thing and they will come to work and they will honor her today but still understand the mission to go out there and still protect our community.”