INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — On October 27 Joshua Beal’s cousin Marcus Washington was murdered in the 3200 block of Winthrop Avenue on Indianapolis’ north side in what family members claim was a killing over money and somebody else’s girlfriend.
Washington’s death put in motion a tragic series of events that culminated with the killing of Beal at the hands of an off-duty police officer in Chicago Saturday.
“Josh is a father. He has two little kids to provide for. He just graduated from Ivy Tech,” said Casey Fisher, a cousin. “Josh was no troublemaker.”
Maybe not back home in Indiana, but on the west side of Chicago, after Washington’s emotional funeral, Beal found himself drawn into a road rage dispute that cost him his life.
The mourners were returning from the cemetery and traveling in a pack of five cars past a Chicago firehouse in the 3100 block of West 111th Street in the Mount Greenwood community.
They were headed to a church for a fellowship meal before getting on the road back to Indianapolis.
An argument broke out between a firefighter and the female driver of a car reportedly blocking a fire lane.
That’s when an off-duty Chicago cop rushed from a nearby barber shop, drew his weapon and began shouting profane commands at the arguing crowd to, “get down on the ground!” as Beal watched from the passenger seat of a brown Dodge Charger.
“His sister and the police officer was having words but he didn’t say he was a police officer or anything,” said Fisher who admittedly arrived just as the shots were being fired. “He was plain clothes and called her a bitch and things like that. She got out the car. They arguing. He put a gun to her head.”
The officer and the family were separated by no more than eight feet of pavement. A witness’ cell phone video shows several people milling around and shouting and cursing as at least one firefighter and one uniformed officer stood by.
There is no visible display of weapons by the family or physical confrontation, though one man is aggressively gesturing toward the officer and being held back.
At approximately 55 seconds into the video, the officer replaces his drawn weapon into his belt. Then the cell phone video pans to the right and, for a split second, catches a glimpse of Beal standing on the far side of the Dodge, more than 20 feet from the policeman, with his right hand raised and what appears to be a gun.
“No, that’s not my cousin. That’s not his style. He’s not a troublemaker,” insisted Fisher. “He’s telling them he has a permit. He says, ‘I have a permit to carry.’”
What happens then, off camera, is the sound of at least a dozen shots being fired followed by screams.
“He tried crawling under the car to try to protect hisself,” said Fisher, “and then the cop came and shot him two more times while he was on the ground.”
Fisher said as the officer went for a back-up weapon to shoot Beal again, he was tackled by the wounded man’s brother as a woman tossed the patrolman’s gun away.
“One of the cops said, ‘This not right,’ and tried to revive Josh,” said Fisher. “Its so hurtful because you have a person of power. A person who is supposed to uphold and serve the community and even though that officer took my cousin life, when the police all came, all they came was to protect that officer and to get they story straight.”
Fisher said he grew up in Chicago and learned at an early age police officers could either be just as brutal as any street gang or a protector of the public.
“They put their life on the line everyday so I got a lot of respect for the police,” said Fisher, a military veteran, “and the one thing I like about Indianapolis, they would come, talk to the community, walk through neighborhoods and things like that.”
In the aftermath of the shooting, Fisher said members of the Black Lives Matter movement arrived, as did Blue Lives Matter to support the officers, and others who yelled racial slurs at the black family in the predominantly white neighborhood.
“It hurts so much because the people we put our faith in to protect us are not protecting us,” said Fisher. “They’re killing us one-by-one and then the community get mad and they start doing things like these police shootings, but that’s not solving anything, but people are getting tired and fed up of being killed and loved ones getting killed.”
When an emotional family returning from a funeral became embroiled in a street argument, the crisis called for a cool headed uniformed cop to calm the dispute and send everyone on their way.
Instead, an officer on this day off rushed in with gun drawn on the apparently unarmed mourners and escalated the tension with orders that the crowd may not have known carried the force of law. Then a Hoosier father of two, a car removed from the dispute, who an hour earlier spoke of peace, pulled his weapon on a man not wearing a police uniform and died.
Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority, recently given the task of investigating police action shootings after the department’s own policies and protocols were discredited, will probe the Beal killing.