IMPD internal report reveals how rioters took control of downtown in late May

Crimetracker

INDIANAPOLIS — An internal IMPD report titled “Civil Unrest Incidents May 29th-June 6th 2020” gives us our first comprehensive look at the late spring days of social justice protests that preceded looting and rioting that caused more than $7 million in financial losses, 174 arrests of adults and juveniles and two murders in a smoldering, chaotic downtown Indianapolis.

The report contains statistical information, minute-by-minute Computer Aided Dispatch accounts and Blue Team reports which document IMPD Use of Force incidents as patrol, SWAT and specially trained Event Response Group and Mobile Field Force officers struggled to regain control of downtown Indianapolis during a weekend of protests, violence and vandalism that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in late May.

Gunfire, protest chants and shattered glass were the soundtrack that weekend as several IMPD officers were injured, and the lives of two people were saved by officers who treated protesters for injuries suffered before their arrests.

Of the 156 adults arrested, 15 were armed with firearms while committing a criminal offense.

An incomplete list of financial losses due to damage from rioting, vandalism and burglary, based on the IMPD internal report, IFD assessments and an investigation by FOX59, includes more than $22,000 for damaged IMPD vehicles, $840,000 in wrecked Department of Public Works trucks, $2.5 million to a CVS store and $1.1 million in police overtime.

The murder of Chris Beaty at Vermont and Talbot Streets on the second night of rioting remains unsolved, though detectives are investigating whether another man who was killed in a shooting more than two hours later near Monument Circle played a role in the former IU football player’s death.

“We’ve said from the very beginning that it was a very chaotic situation,” said IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey, “one that most of us have not encountered before in our careers.”

IMPD timeline of events: Friday, May 29

The last time Indianapolis police were called upon to quell days of unrest that spilled over into arson and looting was in the summer of 1995 in the vicinity of 38th Street and North College Avenue as crowds protested alleged police brutality during a narcotics arrest.

Some of the tear gas canisters discharged by IMPD officers during this spring’s unrest bore 2002 expiration dates, indicating the age of the stockpile and the department’s infrequent use of the riot control devices over the last 25 years.

“In 22 years for me, I’ve never seen that kind of response after what was a peaceful protest, but seeing it on paper only tells part of the story,” said Bailey. “Living it like our officers did and our citizens did and also hearing it on the radio is completely another thing.”

At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 29, a handful of IMPD and State Capitol Police officers stood watch as approximately 35 protesters gathered and chanted on the north side steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

The day before, IMPD commanders met with representatives of other agencies, including Indiana State Police, at the Regional Operations Center on the city’s east side to develop a response to potential protests.

By 7:11 p.m., IMPD officers reported that “Crowd is becoming more aggressive” and “throwing projectiles at officers.”

Within 20 minutes, IMPD responded with its first deployment of chemical spray.

“From the very beginning, one thing that we did notice that folks were bringing shields and other sticks and other things with them on that Friday night, which is not something typical what we see out of the protests that we’re used to dealing with here,” said Bailey. “So right then and there, we knew something was going to be different about what happened.”

By 8:04 p.m., IMPD was ordering all its cars off Monument Circle so as to not confront protesters and to shut down the spokes to the Circle to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Quickly the shutdowns spread to Meridian, New York and Ohio Street.

“Stay in your cars,” was the order from an IMPD commander.

As protesters circulated through the immediate vicinity of the Circle, Indiana State Police requested help near the Statehouse at 9:26 p.m.

Eleven minutes later, the crowd was reported locking arms at Capitol Avenue and Ohio Street, and nine minutes after that, an IMPD officer reported there was a “subject reporting a person jumping on cars on Washington St.”

“We’re giving up New York and Penn to them,” a command officer reported minutes later. “Capitol Police cars being jumped on.”

Shortly before 10 p.m., the first reports of shots fired were filed, and tear gas was dispensed at Alabama and Market Street near the City-County Building as officers reported “Pepper balls crowd charging officers.”

“We spent a lot of time trying to de-escalate,” said Bailey. “I worked with Dr. David Hampton in the mayor’s office who was engaged with the organizers when they were on the Circle on Friday night to try to do what we could to not instigate the crowd, because sometimes our mere presence is an instigator to those that are out there, and so we wanted to make sure that we weren’t that way.”

Hampton is Mayor Joe Hogsett’s deputy mayor of neighborhood engagement who had previously been involved in talks with community members distressed over the IMPD fatal shooting of Dreasjon Reed earlier in May. The special grand jury investigating IMPD’s role in Reed’s death is slated to meet within the next month according to sources.

By 10:08 p.m., the cries for social justice in downtown Indianapolis were augmented by the sound of breaking glass along Illinois Street as members of the crowd turned from peaceful protests to vandalism.

“You have any further guidance on what to do at this time as far as dealing with the crowd causing damage, property damage at this time?” one officer asked.

“Our directive has been to stay away from them,” responded a commander.

Bailey told FOX59 that he was aware of that traffic and informed officers that was not the directive from IMPD Command when it came to controlling downtown.

“Frankly, I witnessed that they weren’t doing anything that we hadn’t allowed in the past,” said Bailey as he recalled that the early hours of the protest were noisy but peaceful. “We simply pulled our officers, instead of standing right in front of them where we were asking for a confrontation, we put them off to the side and were able to respond. But as the group marched around downtown Friday night, it got larger and larger and larger, and then the property destruction started, and so when that happens we’re always a little bit behind the crowd by the time we got caught up, and things had spiraled out a little bit.”

By 10:12 p.m., smoke bombs, rocks and bottles were aimed at IMPD officers, and windows were being smashed at 47 Prime Steakhouse on South Pennsylvania Street.

“Crowd location taken over intersection,” an officer reported at Maryland and Illinois Street at 10:24 p.m., setting the stage for the invasion and looting of the Circle Centre Mall.

“ERG staging in front of CCB,” was the report minutes later as specially trained crowd control officers were finally mobilized.

“We had quite a few ERG officers downtown and prepared to respond, and they were responding,” said Bailey. “But as it grew, we realized we needed more personnel, and so we have a protocol we go through, and the first part of that is to call in on-duty ERG resources, and once those are maxed out, and then we call in off-duty ERG resources, and then after that it’s on-duty Mobile Field Force and then off- duty Mobile Field Force and then a complete call out of the Department.

“That takes time.”

In that time, downtown Indianapolis descended into lawlessness as IMPD waged a roaming battle to save the heart of the city.

During ebbs and flows over the next 36 hours, the Mile Square was rocked by gunfire, flames, sirens, tear gas, chanting and the crashing sound of broken windows from which the city’s core has still not fully recovered.

“Early on Saturday morning is when we got enough personnel that we were able to get things somewhat under control,” said Bailey.

It was what happened before IMPD regained control of the downtown that scarred the city’s psyche and landscape and set the stage for an even worse assault the next night.

“We know obviously what happened on Saturday night too,” said Bailey.

“They are forming around us here on the circle,” reported an officer desperate for rescue during the attempted arrest of a woman for damaging an IMPD patrol car. “We need more cars. They are not letting us out.

“We are totally encircled.”

Pepper balls were fired at protesters in the 200 block of West Market Street as windows were smashed a block away at the Hilton Hotel.

The UPS store and Jack’s Donuts on West Market Street came under attack just after 11 p.m.

“I actually had to go across the street where the police officers were parked on West Market across Illinois Street and grab them and bring them down here to break up the area because they weren’t doing anything about it,” Jack’s owner Chris Karnavas said the next morning. “Where was the National Guard? Where was everybody? The police just basically stood around and watched this happening.”

“Crowds have barricades, and they are looting,” reported one officer. “Advise Capitol Police their (statehouse) door on the east side of the building is broken into,” said another.

Subjects were spotted with semi-automatic rifles at Meridian and New York Street while the windows were being broken out at the TJ Maxx store at Illinois and Market Street with “subjects inside.”

IMPD fired tear gas outside the store minutes later to disperse the crowd.

At two minutes before midnight, windows were broken and looters entered the CVS store up the block at Ohio and Illinois Street while $50,000 worth of windows were being smashed at One American Square across the street.

At 11:36 p.m., IMPD advised that IndyGo Red Line service was suspended downtown.

Less than a half hour later, a Red Line driver on Capitol Avenue approaching the statehouse spotted protesters at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Washington Street and attempted to perform a U turn of the 60-foot long articulated bus to avoid the crowd.

The vehicle became stuck in the middle of the street and, according to IMPD reports, the driver fled, leaving a handful of ERG officers to hold off an approaching mob intent on reaching the bus.

Three tear gas foggers were deployed to buy the officers and an IndyGo supervisor enough time to hold back the crowd and remove the bus from the riot scene.

That’s when the attempted looting of the banks began as three financial institutions were hit within 15 minutes while officers reported they watched rioters on Facebook Live breaking windows trying to get into the CVS store.

Gunfire rang out throughout downtown as IFD responded to the CVS store for the first time that weekend to douse flames at the front door.

“We felt we were jumping from fire-to-fire,” said Bailey, “so we could get the fire department into a safe area so they could do their job.

“As some of these folks set fire to banks and other businesses downtown, a lot of the buildings downtown are occupied by homes up above the first and second floor of downtown Indianapolis, so getting those fires out is a priority and a public safety issue considering if those fires had taken hold in some of those high rise buildings or some of those places like TJ Maxx with The Block Apartments above it. We had to get in there quickly and get that scene saved so firefighters could come in and do their jobs.”

At 12:47 a.m., shots were fired during the looting at the Sheraton Hotel at 31 West Ohio Street as state police moved in to secure Jack’s Donuts to the relief of its owner.

Five minutes later, a woman who kicked in a window at the Sheraton restaurant on the North Meridian Street spoke of Monument Circle was severely injured as a giant shard of glass fell and sliced open her leg. The woman’s life saved only by a nearby IMPD officer who applied a tourniquet and called for EMS.

$27,000 in windows were being smashed at BMO Harris, a quarter million dollars of glass and fire damage was being done at Huntington Bank, followed within minutes by vandalism on the Bank of Indianapolis and the National Bank of Indianapolis.

The attempted rape of a protester was reported to officers at Circle Centre Mall.

An art gallery on East Washington Street was broken into, and a $35,000 sculpture was carted away as an assault on Crown Wine and Spirits was next followed by an alarm that revealed a half million dollars in damages at the FED Ex store on Monument Circle as a FOX59 photographer recorded protesters launching scooters through large windows.

“Security observes male inside through camera,” an IMPD report from Circle Centre reported at 1:09 a.m., just before looters swarmed the mall.

“T-Mobile being looted,” an officer reported at 1:23 a.m. as a FOX59 photographer recalled looters were spotted driving away, waving cell phones out of car windows and calling out “Thanks T-Mobile.”

Glass was smashed, display cases wrecked, backroom operations strewn about at Windsor Jewelers just off Monument Circle, as more Mobile Field Force and ERG officers arrived in downtown to help stem the violence.

“It started out peaceful, we was all cool, but the police shot the tear gas, they just kept shooting it, kept shooting tear gas, kept shooting bullets, kept doing all that, you know,” said protester Avonna Moss. “Everybody came out to definitely support, it started off all peaceful.”

“What do you think changed?” she was asked. 

“The police attitude,” said Moss. “They don’t know how to deal with people. That’s why we don’t need them. We don’t need the police if they don’t know how to deal with it. They need to go back to training.

“Everybody wanted to say their word and stuff, but the police don’t want to hear that,” she went on. “They start doing this, now we’re the animals. Now we’re the people, but they opened up the cage.”

As firefighters battled flames at the CVS at 175 North Illinois Street, looters continued running in and out of the store.

It took IFD one hour to put out the first of two fires that would ravage the building that weekend. The store shows no sign of reopening at that location.

Big Red Liquors was being looted as blocks away as Circle Centre security was reporting a crowd of 50 people attempting to break into the mall with the sound of gunfire going off.

Circle Centre’s AT&T store reported $11,000 in losses that night. The store remains closed.

Alarms went off at Twin Jewelers also inside the mall.

Back at T-Mobile at Washington and Meridian Street, IFD responded as looters attempted to set fire to the store.

$40,000 in windows came crashing down at Oceanaire at 30 South Meridian Street at 2:08 a.m. as IMPD reported “subjects at 25 North Penn with Molotovs.”

Alarms went off at Kay Jewelers inside Circle Centre as a burglary was reported at Skymart and Finish Line was being looted of $50,000 worth of merchandise.

Within a half hour, IFD was responding to TJ Maxx to put out flames.

Throughout the first night of rioting, the Mass Ave entertainment district remained relatively untouched until 2:55 a.m. when the AT&T store at 530 Massachusetts Avenue reported $25,000 in damages and thefts.

Throughout the night, IMPD officers used batons, pepper balls and tear gas to subdue the rampaging crowd.

IMPD did not fire any gunshots all weekend.

“Three people are exiting mall armed with gun,” reported one officer.

“Taking four subjects into custody that pointed gun,” advised another.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Indianapolis, Lafayette Square Mall was being looted at 3:22 a.m., and Diamonds Direct at 8557 River Road was hit for $32,000 in a burglary.

While children as young as 14 years old were being arrested downtown for burglary, a 23-year-old female was taken into custody with two guns while burglarizing the Foot Locker store at Washington Square Mall before dawn.

Finally, at 4:52 a.m. on May 30, the first night of rioting in downtown Indianapolis ended with a report of vandalism to the City-County Building.

“I lived it,” said Bailey, “not like our officers on the front line did, but via the radio and some firsthand experience from what I saw, and it was utter chaos for them. They were under extreme stress and in certain circumstances that I don’t think any of them every dreamed that they would have been in, shots fired, things and projectiles thrown at them, improvised devices, Molotov cocktails, dealing with robberies and people shot and looting and fires. We have an amazing workforce, the ERG and the Mobile Field Force people, our district personnel, our supervisors, Homeland Security branch, they all did a fantastic job under some pretty extraordinary circumstances.”

And as bad as Friday night was, as the sun rose over Indianapolis that Saturday morning and revealed the smoldering, shattered heart of the city, it was just a preview of the next night and the worst yet to come.

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