INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The American Civil Liberties Union of Indianapolis will host a panel on racial justice, Thursday, and is calling for transparency and accountability in the shooting deaths of two black men this week.
Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot to death as he lay on the ground with two police officers on top of him Tuesday morning.
Philando Castile was shot by police Wednesday evening near Minneapolis after being pulled over in a traffic stop. A former Indianapolis woman streamed the aftermath live on Facebook.
"It’s heartbreaking," said Jane Henegar, Executive Director of the Indiana ACLU.
Artists, academics, and legal experts will be on hand at the panel to discuss how to solve the systemic racial problems in our justice system. The ACLU planned the event months ago, but organizers never imagined that they would have two more disturbing shooting to talk about. Henegar said these two shooting deaths were the 122nd and 123rd incidents of black men killed by police this year.
"When tragedies turn into systemic occurrences it behooves us all to take action in whatever way within our means," she said.
Congressman Andre Carson released a statement, Thursday, calling for a third-party to step in and investigate.
He said in part, “Unfortunately, the American people are losing faith that officers who cross the line will be held accountable. Time after time, they see these officers escape without facing jail time, calling into question the ability of local authorities to investigate and prosecute effectively. It is time that we accept the need for outside independent investigation into police shootings, to better ensure officers are brought to justice."
The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis also released a statement, Thursday.
Rev. David W. Greene wrote in part, "We are outraged by the continued senseless murders of young African-American men across our country. The last two nights is totally unacceptable and creates a greater divide among the community and police departments across the country."
While solving a decades old problem won't happen overnight, the ACLU said panels like this one are important and demanding accountability is a start.
"I think that will help with setting a standard across the country and allow not only accountability but also the kind of transparency that will lead to citizens once again trusting police officers and police officers not reacting, or overreacting out of fear for their own safety.”
The ACLU panel is scheduled for 6 pm at the Toby Theater at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.