INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An Indianapolis woman died after being taken into custody by police inside a church. The 43-year-old stopped breathing after officers handcuffed her two weeks ago at a church near 42nd and Shadeland.
Responding to criticism and concern that has emerged on social media, Chief Bryan Roach of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department released a detailed rundown Thursday of what witnesses say happened inside this church before the victim died.
The bottom line, the chief does not believe his officers caused the death.
Brought to Mount Calvary Apostolic Church by her daughter to help lift her spirits from recent depression, police say Eleanor Northington instead suffered a mental crisis and became combative with the congregation.
Roach says police were called to the scene the night of February 6 by an off-duty behavioral officer who attends the church.
Nearly two dozen witnesses told police Northington tried to take a mic away from church singers, went to the bathroom and got naked, then put her clothes back on and allegedly grabbed a young child before spitting on church pastors while hurling slurs.
Police say Northington also punched one officer in the face. That’s when officers wrestled with Northington to try and place her in handcuffs and they fell to the floor.
Police say a member of the congregation then placed a loose cloth over the woman’s mouth to keep her from spitting at the officers and the pastor.
After a few minutes, officers then noticed Northington was struggling to breathe, removed the cloth and began chest compressions.
The police chief says all the witnesses on scene praised the response by his officers, but concerns have been raised on social media by groups like Black Lives Matter who have repeatedly tweeted about the death demanding answers.
Chief Roach responded specifically by saying, "There's nothing I've seen to indicate the officers did anything wrong.”
Roach added his officers never used any strikes and preliminary autopsy results show Northington did not have any external injuries.
The police chief did not release the names of the officers involved. They remain on administrative leave while a review of the case is completed.
Northington's daughter told our news gathering partners at the IndyStar that she does not think officers mishandled her mother.
"I think it was her health that caused it mostly," D’Asia Montgomery told IndyStar. "I’m against police brutality. I’m for Black Lives Matter. Nobody should be mishandled. But I don’t feel like they mishandled my mom."
"They were trying to get her to calm down and she just started fighting the police and resisting and hitting them," Montgomery, 21, said. "When the police came, she started running, and they just wanted her to sit down. My mom was in a different mental state. She wasn’t all the way in her right mind."