Militant Journalism

Indianapolis police kill and mock Dreasjon Reed; people shut down the streets

“Looks like it’s going to be a closed casket, homie.” These are the words an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer spoke as he stood over the lifeless body of Dreasjon Reed just seconds after killing him. His fellow officer laughs. 

Both were unaware that Reed’s nearby phone was still livestreaming to his family, friends, and the public, as it had been throughout IMPD’s pursuit. The livestream shows Reed running from a cop, scared for his life, and begging anyone watching for help. With Reed’s back to the cop, we hear gunshots as the phone drops to the ground. Pointing up at the sky, we hear over a dozen more gunshots.

Police allege that IMPD Chief Randal Taylor and Deputy Chief Kendale Adams, in unmarked police cars, initiated the chase around 6:00 pm on May 6 because Reed was speeding on Interstate 65 North. Marked cars took over and chased Reed for about 10 minutes throughout the  Northside. They lost Reed before another officer spotted him bailing from his car, at which the foot chase began. They admit to tasering Reed before shooting him.

At a press conference afterwards, Chief Taylor said there was “no reason to believe the officer acted out of turn.” The people of Indianapolis, however, clearly disagreed. Nearby community members immediately gathered near the scene and took over the intersection of 62nd Street and Michigan Road, where they stayed for hours. People from all over the city joined, undeterred by the dozens of police cars that blocked nearby roads and parking lots in an attempt to prevent the protest from growing.

A Liberation News reporter was on the scene within hours. Reed’s body was still lying on the ground as late as 10:00 pm. His family and community members said Reed, a 21-year-old Black man, had graduated from Lawrence North High School and spent a year in the Air Force in Texas.

IMPD kills three people in eight hours

Reed wasn’t the only victim that night. At before 10:00 pm on May 6, officer Jonathon Henderson was driving to work when he hit and killed 23-year-old Ashlynn Lisby with his car. Lisby, a white woman, was pregnant. She was the second person killed with an IMPD car in the last month.

Around 1:00 am on May 7, IMPD officers shot and killed McHale Rose, a 19-year-old Black man, on the city’s Northside. IMPD says they were on the scene after receiving a report of a burglary in progress. They identified Rose as a suspect, and claim he fired a rifle at officers when they tried to apprehend him. Police found no evidence of a burglary, and assert that Rose called 911 himself in an attempt to “ambush” police.

IMPD alleges that Reed also had a gun and media reports say that “gunfire was exchanged” in the chase, although there is no evidence of Reed firing a weapon on his livestream. None of the officers involved in Reed’s or Rose’s shootings were wearing bodycams.

Community members grieve and protest

At 12:00 pm on May 7, the day after Reed’s death, community members and organizers held two large demonstrations, one on the Northside and one in the city’s downtown area in front of the City-County Building. After a few hours, the downtown protest moved to the Northside, where hundreds of people had taken over the intersection of 62nd Street and Michigan Road again.

Shortly after 1 pm, Bobbi Rose, McHale Rose’s mother, arrived at the Northside demonstration with her family. They’d gone to pick out a casket for her son, she said, and stopped when they saw the people on the street.

“They shot my son in the leg,” she told the crowd. “Why did they keep shooting him? Four more times! He was on live, he was on the ground, he wasn’t moving. Why did they keep shooting?”

Rose was streaming on Instagram live when IMPD officers gunned him down, but the video has since been deleted.

People stayed in the streets throughout the day, even as cops showed up with tear gas and bean bag guns. They listened to community leaders and organizers as well as Reed’s family and friends. Contrasting the demonstration with one that took place last month at the governor’s mansion calling for businesses to reopen, one woman took the mic to say, “There were people out there protesting the governor for what? A haircut? We’re out here for someone’s life!”

Determined to get justice for Reed, they summoned Chief Taylor to the scene. Protesters stood in lines on the street as Taylor arrived at 4:00 pm. Jamie and Jazmine Reed, Dreasjon’s father and sister, confronted Taylor and demanded answers and accountability as the protestors crowded around.

While Chief Taylor called the officer’s “joke” about Reed’s death “unacceptable,” he apparently believes that Reed’s death itself was justified. Taylor said he had “no reason to think that the officer didn’t act appropriately.” The police report that they found 15 shell casings at the scene of Reed’s shooting and that at least two are from a gun they say belonged to Reed.

Taylor’s excuses did not go over well with the crowd, who began shouting him down after he made that claim that Reed fired at officers during the livestream. Taylor made a hasty retreat as frustrations boiled over, with some members of the crowd hurling water bottles at the police chief and his car.

IMPD has said it will conduct its own investigation into the shootings of Reed and Rose. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI to “actively monitor” the investigations, stopping far short of calling for an independent investigation. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears asked for a special prosecutor for Reed’s shooting, citing the fact that Chief Taylor is a material witness in the case.

The city police and government are calling for calm while the investigation continues, stating that we need more details about what actually happened. Yet the people of Indianapolis have little to no faith in finding justice through the system.

Little would change if there was an “independent” investigation by the FBI, as the agency declined to charge the two IMPD officers who killed Aaron Bailey in 2017. The people will also not be placated by the appointment of a special prosecutor, as the special prosecutor for Bailey’s murder cleared the two officers of any wrongdoing. They continue to patrol Indianapolis neighborhoods.

Even more damning to hopes for police reform: promises made after Bailey’s killing have not been met. Mayor Joe Hogsett promised to change the IMPD use of force policy, create a new use of force review board (currently, a review board is only convened for officer-involved shootings), and to rework the process for filing complaints against abusive officers. Those promises were made in 2017, and three years and several slayings later, they remain unfulfilled.

Real justice—for Reed, Rose, Lisby, Bailey, and the numerous others killed by the IMPD—will only be won through organizing and staying in the streets. 

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