Over the weekend, law enforcement across the state of Indiana faced attempts on their lives and armed persons, leading officers to respond with gunfire, taking one life.
It was late on Friday afternoon on the east side of Indianapolis when officers spotted a car driven by Demarqus Whitley, who was wanted in an investigation into several car break-ins in Broad Ripple where guns were stolen.
Whitley led officers on a pursuit to the north side, where he bailed out of his vehicle along with his passenger. Whitley later surrendered when he was spotted hiding beneath a truck.
His passenger, however, continued to run, and police said when he reached for an object at his waistline, an officer fired. The man died. A gun was found at his feet. The dead man had a previous felony conviction on a firearms charge.
Less than seven hours later, detectives from the Indiana Crime Guns Task Force were in the vicinity of 7500 North Shadeland Avenue on an unrelated investigation when they spotted a man waving a gun in the air outside of a bar where he had allegedly threatened a bartender.
As officers closed in, they recognized Antonio Berry, a 37-year-old wanted for unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, among other violent crimes. Officers and an Indiana State trooper tried to hem Berry in with their vehicles only to watch him ram their two cars and a truck.
Though Berry’s attack could be construed as assault with a deadly weapon and justification for a lethal force response, the officers did not fire, and the suspect was taken into custody. Police found a handgun in Berry’s car. Two officers were injured. Berry faces a multitude of charges including, again, unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. He goes to court Tuesday morning.
At about the same time officers were tangling with Berry in Indianapolis, police at the Evansville Regional airport were confronting a man with a knife. Police reported that the man lunged at officers and was subsequently shot and critically wounded.
Sunday afternoon in Fort Wayne, an officer called to calm a dispute was nearly run over by a driver before he shot and wounded that man.
As of this article’s publication, IMPD has had 16 officer-involved shootings — nine of which were fatal — this year. Since 2017, IMPD has had 64 officer-involved shootings.
During that same period, ISP has had 25 officer-involved shootings and investigated 26 such instances on behalf of other agencies.
”I think it’s an uptick, and I think what we’re going to see if this doesn’t stop, again, is levels of violence that we have never ever seen before,” ISP Superintendent Doug Carter told FOX59 and CBS4.
Thus far this year, four Indiana law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty, including two state troopers struck by fleeing drivers, a Tell City Police sergeant shot by a man she was trying to arrest and Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy John Durm, who was allegedly choked to death by a murder suspect he was transporting from Eskenazi Hospital to the Adult Detention Center.
Three IMPD officers have been wounded by gunmen who police then fatally shot this year. Several other IMPD officers were injured after investigators said a suspect, who has been involved in ramming IMPD cars in four separate incidents during his life, was shot once by police in the spring and tried to get away by crashing into police cars again recently.
”Lets find out who these people are and find out what their history is,” Carter said. ”We know these people are extremely violent, so think about that frontline officer, whether it’s IMPD, whether it’s a state trooper, a state officer, whatever it may be, knowing they’re going after a person who has no value for human life. That’s the level of service we’re providing, that we’re trying to accomplish so those individuals don’t create that fear and havoc.”
IMPD is currently in the process of seeking out a researcher to study the recent uptick in officer-involved shootings and look for common denominators that my lead to violent confrontations — whether it be a shortage of officers or officers lacking experience, more violent offenders willing to shoot it out with law enforcement, the lack of gun permits allowing more illegal gun owners to carry their weapons in public with relatively no fear of police inquiry, criminal justice system leniency that finds repeat offenders released on bond or returned to the streets with charges dismissed or sentences reduced, or, a breakdown of respect for law enforcement and civility.
Carter said its much simpler than all that.
”This is a compliance issue, and if there was fear of the system, there would be compliance or at least respect for the system,” Carter said, drawing a line between 2023’s violence against police officers and the civil unrest that rocked the streets of American cities including Indianapolis more than three-and-a-half-years ago. “All of this changed after May of 2020.”
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 103 law enforcement officers across the U.S. have died in the line of duty this year, compared with 249 for all of last year.