Indianapolis families speak out against police violence
Jason Jones / People's World

INDIANAPOLIS—The families and friends of Gary Harrell and Frederick Davis, along with community members, labor, and clergy gathered outside an Eastside Burger King on Saturday, Nov. 11 to demand Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears hold the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) accountable for the shooting of 15 Black men so far this year, with the most recent occurring a day before the rally.

The Burger King at the intersection of East 21st Street and North Shadeland Avenue was the location where Frederick Davis, 37, was shot and killed by police responding to a trespassing call at a nearby hotel on Oct. 26. Davis was homeless and reportedly suffering from mental illness. Despite Burger King employees calling to get Davis help, the police showed up. The situation escalated from there, eventually resulting in IMPD officer Nicholas Deem shooting and killing Davis. The police department claims Davis grabbed an officer’s gun during a struggle.

Davis’ aunt, Sharon Cannon, echoed the family’s and community’s demand that IMPD release the unedited, full body cam footage of the encounter. “Justice looks like us seeing the body cam!” Cannon told the crowd. Police narratives are often carefully curated by investigators with input from the Fraternal Order of Police and reinforced by a structurally racist code of silence that permeates law enforcement agencies.

As weeks have gone by, no one has been given access to the video footage captured by Burger King’s security cameras or police body cameras. The prosecutor’s office has also repeatedly refused to meet with community members and families of the deceased.

“My nephew, to me, was murdered unjustly, and I’m not going away,” Cannon told the crowd and press. “I’ll be at every rally. Wherever I can be at, I’m going to be there because I’m his voice.”

Gary Harrell, 49, was shot in the back and killed running away from police on Aug. 3. His sister, Missy Williams, told those at the protest: “We are tired, frustrated, and fed up with all of this police brutality against us. This was my brother, my oldest brother. We need justice, and we’re ready for a conviction. Stand with us; support us because it could have been one of your loved ones.”

Harrell had been recently released from incarceration and was pulled over for a traffic stop. His family, too, has been denied meetings with the prosecutor’s office, despite repeated attempts to schedule a meeting.

IMPD officer Douglas Correll fired two shots at Harrell as Harrell was running away from him. One of those shots was lethal. Correll has a checkered past involving complaints related to punching and kneeing a gunshot victim in July 2016. According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana, the victim, Joshua Harris, had called 911 after getting shot in the foot. Officer Correll arrived and reportedly ignored Harris’ pleas for help.

When Harris protested and asserted his Fourth Amendment rights as the officer entered his home to search it, Correll reportedly punched Harris in the face twice, causing Harris to fall to his knees. When he tried to stand up, Correll grabbed his shoulders and kneed him in his abdomen, briefings filed with the court allege. The force of Correll’s strike crushed Harris’ spleen against his spine. He crumpled to the ground and went in and out of consciousness.

Where some success has been made, although not without a long, protracted fight, has been on behalf of Herman Whitfield III. Whitfield was murdered by IMPD officers Adam Ahmad and Steven Sanchez in April 2022 after his parents called for help when Whitfield was suffering a mental health crisis. It took almost a year to get the body camera footage released alongside legal and community pressure to get the prosecutor’s office to convene a grand jury to bring charges against the officers responsible for electrocuting and suffocating Whitfield.

Voices from the community that included labor, clergy members, and a number of political organizations, stood in solidarity with the Davis and Harrell families and echoed the demands for:

  • The immediate, full, and unedited body cam and surveillance footage of all officers involved in the murder of Frederick Davis and identifying all officers involved.
  • The immediate firing of all IMPD officers involved in the murders of Frederick Davis, Gary Harrell, and Herman Whitfield III.
  • Promptly charge all IMPD officers involved in murdering Frederick Davis, Gary Harrell, Herman Whitfield III, and others.
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Jason Jones
Jason Jones

Jason Jones is a social worker writing about Indiana. One of his favorite quotes is “I'm a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will." -Antonio Gramsci. Jones is a fan of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Beisbol Cubano.