INDIANAPOLIS– The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office filed a request Tuesday, seeking the death penalty for the man charged with the murder of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Officer Breann Leath.
“We just want justice for her,” said Officer Leath’s mother, Jennifer Leath.
Elliahs Dorsey, 27, is accused of fatally shooting Leath as she was responding to a call on Indianapolis’ east side.
On April 9, 2020, just before 3 p.m., Leath and three other officers responded to the 1800 block of Edinburge Square, near E. 21st Street and N. Franklin road for a report of a disturbance involving a man and woman. The dispatcher also noted the man thought someone was trying to kill him and might be mentally ill.
According to court documents, Dorsey heard the woman he was with tell someone else their location over the phone, and he heard the woman say, “You need to come get him.” Dorsey claims not long after, he heard a knock on the door, and police say he started shooting at them through the closed apartment door.
Documents say Officer Leath was shot twice in the head. During the incident, Dorsey also allegedly shot his girlfriend, who survived.
Dorsey is charged with one count of murder, four counts of attempted murder, one count of criminal confinement, and one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury.
Nearly ten months after the deadly shooting, prosecutors filed the request for death sentence in the Marion Superior Court. In the filing, prosecutors say the aggravated circumstance cited for requesting the death penalty is that Elliahs Dorsey murdered Officer Breann Leath while she was acting in the course of duty as a law enforcement officer.
“We always want to make sure that we consider all of the evidence and all of the factors that are out there,” said Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears. “So you want to make sure you’re making a decision based on the information available to you.”
Mears said he has been in communication with the family of Leath, consulting with them in this decision to file the request.
“When you think about the sacrifice that she was willing to make for her community, in service of her community, those are things you’re certainly going to consider are gonna be at the forefront of your mind,” said Mears.
Mears also explained they have an open dialogue with the counsel representing Dorsey, working to ensure a fair process for all parties involved.
“When you’re making this determination it’s not only important what factors you have to look at, but also what are the mitigators on the side of the defense,” he said. “It’s really a process we try to follow in any of these cases that are eligible for the death penalty. You want to gather as much information as possible, have conversations with as many people as possible and make sure you have access to the best information.”
Mears said seeking the death penalty creates a situation of “super due-process,” meaning it will lengthen the period of time it will take to not only bring a matter to trial, but it also extends what types of issues need to be investigated.
“When you seek something like this, you’re very much looking backwards in terms of, you look into the person’s background, you look at mental health history, their educational experiences, their criminal histories, all of those types of things,” said Mears.
Dorsey appeared in Marion County Superior Court Tuesday morning for a hearing on the matter, presided over by Judge Mark Stoner.
For the first time, Tom and Jennifer Leath, the parents of Officer Breann Leath, sat in the same room as the man accused of killing their daughter.
“It was pretty rough sitting there and seeing him. We haven’t seen him except on TV,” said Jennifer Leath.
She said she knew this request by Prosecutor Mears would be imminent and their family had a say in deciding whether they wanted to pursue the death penalty.
“I know there’s a lot of people that don’t agree what happened with the death penalty or whatever, but that was my child. I just want justice for her,” said Jennifer Leath. “Police officer or not, she was more than a police officer. She was my baby. She was a mom to a baby.”
Jennifer Leath said she knew she needed to be in the courtroom to represent her daughter, who should still be here.
“I hope he saw us. I don’t know if he did or not. I don’t know if he even cares,” said Jennifer Leath, “but we will be here every day. Every day that he’s here, we will be here because we represent Breann.”
Although the family is still heartbroken over their loss, Jennifer and Tom Leath take the time to pray for the family of Elliahs Dorsey often.
“My husband and I loved our child but his family lost a son too, basically,” said Jennifer Leath. “We don’t fault his family. I mean at some point as parents your kids take up their own life.”
“It was just hard sitting there because I feel like she should be here, it’s not fair.”
Jennifer Leath said her daughter was a friend to everybody, whether she knew them or not. “She just loved life, she was so full of it,” she said.
“She just wanted to make a difference and I think that her time around here was short but I think she did that.”
Jennifer Leath said she remembers her daughter as someone who was fun and bubbly with a huge smile. “She was a community person, she loved being out in the community and doing something good,” she said.
County Prosecutor Mears said as the case proceeds, he hopes people remember Officer Leath and the good she left in this community.
“I hope people don’t forget about the victim. Too often times, there’s too much emphasis placed on the defendant. Let’s remember the victim and let’s remember what she lost and what this community lost,” said Mears.
“Let’s also remember what she stood for and what she represented because it’s an incredibly positive story and a great story about the power of people,” he said.
Dorsey is set to face a judge on April 20 for a pre-trial conference, though it is not clear whether the proceeding will be in-person or via video conference.
IMPD issued the following statement Tuesday:
While many will focus on the person accused of this crime, the attention this announcement brings is an opportunity to again reflect on all that Officer Breann Leath gave to her community in her all-too-short time with us. It is an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices her family made and the loss they will forever feel so that people they will never meet could be safer.
Officer Leath demonstrated what it means to be a dedicated public servant, and set an example that we all strive to live up to every day. She was committed to her community and giving back. She was committed to helping victims of domestic violence. She was committed to running towards danger when others would run away. She was committed to helping her fellow man, woman, and child.
Officer Breann Leath will always represent the spirit of IMPD and will always be remembered.