INDIANAPOLIS — A jury trial has been rescheduled in the federal court case surrounding the estate of Herman Whitfield III seeking damages from the city of Indianapolis after Whitfield’s death in April 2022.
According to court documents, filed in October in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, a final pretrial conference in the federal court lawsuit is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2025, while the jury trial is scheduled for March 10, 2025, in Indianapolis federal court.
Whitfield’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Indianapolis and six officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, according to previous reports.
On April 25, 2022, Whitfield was undergoing a mental health crisis and his parents called 911. When IMPD officers arrived, officials said at the time that they found Whitfield and he was reportedly not responding to them. The officers used a Taser on Whitfield twice and as officers handcuffed him as he lay on his stomach, Whitfield could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” in the body camera footage. He later died at the hospital.
After this incident, two officers, Steven Sanchez and Adam Ahmad, were indicted by a Marion County grand jury on multiple counts, including involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and battery. Jury trials for Ahmad and Sanchez are scheduled for mid-January.
The federal lawsuit claims that the city’s policies and practices were a “responsible cause of how the individual defendant officers interacted” with Whitfield during the incident. They stress that the city, as well as the six officers involved, should be held responsible for Whitfield’s death.
In its response to the federal lawsuit, the defendants deny that the estate is entitled to relief in this litigation. The defendants denied that the force used against Whitfield during the incident was unreasonable and excessive.
The defendants also claimed that the injuries and damages, if any, were caused by pre-existing injuries or conditions and that the defendants are entitled to statutory and common law immunity.
In June, a federal judge ruled that no written discovery or depositions can be conducted with Sanchez and Ahmad because of their ongoing criminal proceedings. However, the court ruled that all other discovery would proceed.
According to previous reports, Herman Whitfield Jr. and Gladys Whitfield, Herman Whitfield III’s parents, also filed a lawsuit in Marion County on Wednesday and are seeking monetary damages against the city of Indianapolis. In this lawsuit, the parents claim that the actions of the involved IMPD officers against their son were actionable under the common law of Indiana, as well as the state’s Tort Claims Act.
In a statement from the family’s legal team, officials said the Marion County case is brought on behalf of a separate claim of the parents themselves. The federal lawsuit is brought by the estate of Herman Whitfield III and not by the parents, even though they do serve as the personal representatives of their son’s estate.