Year in Review: Pick the top story of 2017
As 2017 comes to a close, we’re taking a look at some of the top stories of the year.
We had our share of tragedies this year. The case of two murdered Delphi teens and a fatal officer-involved shooting in Indianapolis both captured national headlines. In one case, a killer remains on the loose; in the other, two police officers could lose their jobs.
There was a sea change in national politics with the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Women fought back against sexual harassment with the #MeToo campaign that brought down several powerful figures in entertainment and politics.
Local sports fans had plenty to talk about, too. The Indiana Pacers traded away All-Star Paul George, the Indianapolis Colts fired GM Ryan Grigson and the Indiana Hoosiers hired Archie Miller to replace Tom Crean as basketball coach.
Join us as we look back at the top stories of 2017 and prepare to welcome 2018. After you read the year’s top stories, vote in our poll to pick the biggest story of the year!
President Donald Trump Inaugurated as 45th President of the United States – January
After a divisive political campaign led to the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, January 2017 saw the inauguration of Trump as the nation’s 45th president. Trump pledged in his inaugural address to be a president for all Americans. Former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence became vice president.
But the administration could not capitalize on the momentum that followed his election. Questions about the size of the crowd on Inauguration Day set the tone early. Every move of the administration was scrutinized and legislative victories were few. Controversies ranged from the so-called “travel ban” to the interactions of campaign personnel with Russian officials.
Andrew Luck’s Surgery and Eventual Move to the Injured Reserve – January
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay revealed in January that Andrew Luck had a procedure on his shoulder but said Luck would be ready for the start of the season. However, as training camp progressed, it became clear that Luck wouldn’t play anytime soon.
The team arranged a trade with the New England Patriots, swapping wide receiver Phillip Dorsett for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who became the Week 2 starter after Scott Tolzien struggled in the season opener.
The Colts limped along during a losing season and Luck, concerned about soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder, was shut down for the year in November. He eventually sought treatment in Europe.
Abby Williams and Libby German Murdered in Delphi – February
It started as a search for two missing girls on Feb. 13, 2017. Best friends Abby Williams and Libby German disappeared on a historic trail in Delphi, setting off a large search for the two teens. A day later—on Valentine’s Day—searchers found the girls dead.
Indiana State Police revealed that someone murdered the girls—and that the suspect remained on the loose. They had a handful of clues to go on, including audio and a photo on Libby German’s phone. Police released a recording of a man saying “down the hill” and a grainy photo of the man they consider the killer.
Thousands of tips poured in, and the girls’ pictures appeared on FBI billboards around the country. Police later released a composite sketch of the suspect based on information from a woman who saw a man on the trail the day the girls were killed. Speculation about the case hit a fever pitch, with amateur sleuths working to piece together what happened. Police issued a statement urging the public not to jump to conclusions.
The case took a bizarre turn in September when a man was arrested in an incident in which he threatened people with a hatchet on a Colorado trail. Indiana State Police traveled to Colorado to interview Daniel Nations, who was driving a vehicle with Indiana plates. Police said there was no specific information to “include or exclude” Nations in the Delphi investigation.
As of this writing, the case remains unsolved.
April the Giraffe – February through April
It seems like it took forever, but April the giraffe finally gave birth to a healthy calf as hundreds of thousands of people watched online. The giraffe became a social media sensation when Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, livestreamed April daily.
The stream began in February and dragged on for weeks as people across the world waited for the big moment to take place. Finally, on April 15, 2017, April went into labor and gave birth to a healthy male calf.
The zoo held a contest to name the new addition; the winning entry ended up being “Tajiri,” which is a Swahili word for “hope.”
The zoo’s decision to stream April didn’t go without controversy. Animal Adventure Park shut down the livestream at one point in February, blaming “animal rights extremists” for flagging the video as “sexually explicit.”
Tom Crean Let Go as Indiana’s Head Basketball Coach – March
Tom Crean gave it his best at Indiana University, bringing the program back to national prominence in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson scandal that crippled IU basketball.
It wasn’t enough. The university decided to part ways with Crean in March after the Hoosiers failed to meet expectations. Crean joined the program in 2008, leading the Hoosiers to a 120-53 record and two outright Big Ten championships. He recruited future pros like Victor Olapido and Cody Zeller.
But Crean couldn’t take regular season success and translate it to the postseason. The Hoosiers’ most glaring loss came against Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen during the 2012-2013 season, when a stacked Indiana team that was No. 1 in the country for weeks couldn’t make a deep push in the NCAA tournament.
IU announced the hiring of former University of Dayton head basketball coach Archie Miller to succeed Crean.
Johnson County Drug Arrests – March and August
Several law enforcement agencies swept across Johnson County in March as part of an investigation into drug activity in the county. Officers from multiple departments served warrants with assistance from state police and U.S. Marshals, who went to Marion and Morgan counties, which fall outside Johnson County jurisdiction.
More than two dozen people were arrested as part of the operation, with charges ranging from dealing in a narcotic drug to dealing in methamphetamine and other counts. Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said it appeared most of the drugs being sold in the county came from Mexico.
Months later, authorities issued more than 60 arrest warrants as part of a wide-ranging drug investigation. Authorities said the August operation focused more on methamphetamine while the March sweep included more heroin charges. The August sweep specifically targeted dealers, authorities said.
Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti Robbed at Gunpoint at West Side Taco Bell – May
Scott Dixon captured the pole for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500, but his elation was short-lived after he, his wife and former driver Dario Franchitti were robbed at gunpoint at a west side Taco Bell.
Dixon was supposed to buy dinner for his racing team. It was late, and most businesses were closed, so Dixon went through the drive-thru at the Taco Bell located at 3502 W. 16th St. According to the IMPD incident report, Dixon said two young males approached his vehicle, shoved a gun in the window and stole his wife’s purse before running off.
Police eventually caught the suspects and recovered the purse.
“It was definitely shocking, disbelief for the most part,” said Dixon of the incident.
“It will make you feel really small again.”
Indiana Pacers trade Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder – June
The Indiana Pacers traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a move that stunned the basketball world, with many experts saying the Pacers were forced to make a bad deal. Word of George’s desire to leave Indianapolis leaked, limiting the team’s leverage to make a deal.
Ultimately, George—on the last year of his contract—joined Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony in Oklahoma City. In exchange, the Pacers got former IU star Victor Oladipo and second-year player Domantas Sabonis. While George has gotten the upper hand on the Pacers in head-to-head matchups, the deal ended up working out well for the Blue and Gold.
Questions Persist About Investigation into Flora Fire that Killed Four Sisters in Flora – June
In November 2016, four sisters died after a house fire in Flora. In January, investigators concluded that someone intentionally set the fire that killed Keyana Davis, 11, Keyara Phillips, 9, Kerriele McDonald, 7, and Konnie Welch, 5, who were trapped inside the home in the 100 block of E. Columbia St. in Flora.
But since that determination, the case has plodded along. The fire investigator assigned to the house fire resigned in June, shocking family members of the four little girls who say they’ve been kept in the dark throughout the process.
State police also said that one spot in the house had accelerants, running contrary to earlier findings that there were “several” spots in the house with accelerants.
State police later released a new poster seeking information in the case. The family is still holding out hope that investigators will discover who’s responsible for the girls’ deaths. The community gathered in November to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.
Aaron Bailey Shot to Death, IMPD Chief Recommends Firing Officers – June
In June, Aaron Bailey fled from police during an early morning traffic stop on June 29. He eventually crashed his car into a tree near 23rd and Aqueduct streets. When Bailey got out of the car, officers shot him, claiming they believed he’d reached for a gun. Bailey was unarmed; his family said the autopsy showed he was shot in the back. No weapon was found in his car.
Bailey’s shooting led to protests in the city of Indianapolis, and his family demanded answers from the department. IMPD Chief Bryan Roach said parallel criminal and internal investigations into the shooting would take place.
A special prosecutor assigned to the case declined to file charges against officers Carlton Howard and Michal Dinnsen, saying there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers were guilty of a crime.
However, after the special prosecutor’s decision, Roach recommended the termination of both officers, saying they failed to follow their training and had other reasonable options during the traffic stop that led to Bailey’s death.
A civilian merit board will make the final decision on the officers’ future. Bailey’s family has moved forward with a civil lawsuit naming the officers, the city, and IMPD.
Death of Southport Lt. Aaron Allan – July
On the afternoon of July 27, Southport Lt. Aaron Allan responded to a crash in Homecroft where he encountered a car that had flipped over.
The 38-year-old lieutenant was trying to help the driver when he was shot multiple times. He died from his injuries. Two other officers who responded to the scene, including a Homecroft officer and an off-duty Johnson County deputy, returned fire.
Jason Brown is charged with murder in connection with Allan’s death. Police said he was behind the wheel of a BMW that flipped over during the crash. Court documents described him as “hysterical” while he was wedged inside the vehicle. He reached behind his back and pulled a gun on Allan, according to witness accounts. Allan was trying to calm him down.
Wreck of USS Indianapolis Discovered in Philippine Sea – August
The USS Indianapolis sank on July 30, 1945, and many thought it was lost forever. However, a search team put together by billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen found the ship resting at the bottom of the Philippine Sea, providing some closure to survivors and their families.
A Japanese submarine sank the ship, which had just completed a vital mission to deliver components of the atomic bomb “Little Boy” that helped bring an end to the war. About 800 of the ship’s 1,196 sailors and Marines initially survived, spending days in the water while battling exposure, dehydration and shark attacks. When it was all over, only 317 lived through the ordeal.
Jimmy O’Donnell was one of five Indianapolis men to serve on the ship and was the only local man to be pulled out of the water alive. His family was overjoyed with the discovery.
“It’s just very exciting. I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s very necessary as a closure especially…for the lost-at-sea families,” said Mary Alice, O’Donnell’s widow. “I think the country should know about the sacrifices that were made for the freedom we have today.”
Solar Eclipse Mania Sweeps the Nation – August
All eyes were on the sky on Aug. 21 as people around the world hoped to catch a glimpse of the Great American Eclipse. Some booked trips out of state so they’d be in the totality of the eclipse and many schools used the phenomenon as a science lesson and several places held viewing parties.
Experts said the eclipse was the first on continental U.S. soil in 38 years. Eclipses happen about once every year and a half, but the path of the totality is so narrow that it’s difficult to see one.
Central Indiana experienced a partial eclipse where only about 91-percent of the sun’s light was obscured. The eclipse began at 12:57 p.m. and peaked at 2:25 p.m. before moving on around 3:45 p.m.
Excitement about the eclipse sent people scrambling to get eclipse glasses, which sold out at many stores. The special glasses allowed people to view the eclipse without risking eye damage. However, some people ended up ordering eclipse glasses online that weren’t properly certified.
Eclipse mania hit peak levels when Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” saw a surge in sales. She even performed the song during the eclipse on a cruise ship.
Hurricane Season – August and September
Hurricane season wasn’t kind to parts of the United States this year. Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeastern Texas on Aug. 26. It battered the Lone Star State, bringing massive flooding and spawning tornadoes. The storm flooded interstates and led to an emergency rescues. The death toll stood at more than 90 people with damage estimated at nearly $200 billion.
After Harvey battered Houston, Hurricane Irma set its sights on Florida. It hit Category 5 intensity as it made its way across the Caribbean and maintained peak intensity for 37 straight hours. Florida declared a state of emergency and some mandatory evacuations were ordered. State offices and universities were shut down from Sept. 8 through Sept. 11. Overall, damage from Irma was estimated at $2.2 billion and spanned from the Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico, Cuba and beyond.
Hurricane Maria formed as another large storm in the Atlantic hurricane season. The Category 5 storm caused catastrophic damage in the Caribbean. It hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane. The death toll from the storm stood at more than 540; dozens of people remain missing and Puerto Rico. The island lost electricity and communications.
NFL Protests Draw Ire of President Trump – September
It started with Colin Kaepernick and sent ripples throughout the country. President Donald Trump then entered the fray, criticizing players for kneeling during the national anthem during a speech in Alabama.
Prominent athletes and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell criticized the president’s comments, with Goodell saying the president’s stance showed a “lack of respect” for the league and its players.
Players responded in droves as the NFL seasoned opened, with many taking a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” On Monday Night Football, owner Jerry Jones locked arms with players and kneeled before the anthem and stood when it started playing.
The Colts released a statement hoping to clear up “several misperceptions” regarding the decision to kneel.
Vice President Mike Pence courted a national controversy of his own when he came to the Colts-49ers game in October and then walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium after two dozen 49ers players took a knee during the national anthem.
Harvey Weinstein Sexual Misconduct Allegations and the #MeToo Movement – October
The New York Times published an explosive report in which more than a dozen women accused powerful Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. After the report came to light, more women stepped forward with similar allegations against Weinstein.
The scandal shed light on the culture of silence in Hollywood, where young women hoping for a big break felt their careers would end if they reported such behavior. Weinstein’s production company fired him and he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
It didn’t stop with Weinstein, however. More and more women—and some men—stepped forward with allegations against others in the entertainment, journalism and political worlds, including Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Sen. Al Franken, Tavis Smiley, Russell Simmons, Senate candidate Roy Moore, Louis C.K., Steven Seagal, and former President George H.W. Bush, among others. The #MeToo movement became one of the defining moments of 2017, and TIME magazine selected the “Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year.
Late-season Tornadoes Strike in Central Indiana – November
In November, a storm system spawned tornadoes in several communities, including Delaware and Jay counties. At least six tornadoes were reported as part of the storm system, which hit on a Sunday.
The storm damaged the Muncie Fieldhouse, caving in the roof and flooding the facility.
A tornado destroyed a Jay County family’s home as they watched helplessly from a ditch. In the chaos, their dog disappeared. They searched for him until nightfall and then put out a plea on social media. They found him safe in a nearby cornfield after suffering only minor injuries.