INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (October 25, 2015) – Damon Lee stood on the corner of 40th Street and Boulevard Place, the thump and soulful stirrings of a storefront church choir echoed in the background as he surveyed the intersection young toughs proudly proclaim as their stomping grounds for its reputation for drugs and murder and mayhem.
“Two weeks have made a larger difference,” said Lee, a homeowner and IPS special education teacher. “We’re out here every night. A lot of the crime has calmed down. A lot of the people, as you see, is very peaceful out here.”
In mid-October, South Butler-Tarkington was reeling.
Three people, including a ten-year-old boy, had been murdered and two nights later another teenager would be slain.
Drug raids had left the community shaken, familiar faces were incarcerated, and time was running out to find solutions before cold weather would begin driving children into the warmth of dope houses.
Lee and friends began an organization called WADE, named after a slain friend, and talked about their commitment to winning back their neighborhood on Fox 59 News. In less than two weeks, they’ve held a peace rally, several meetings with neighbors and IMPD Chief Rick Hite at the Martin Luther King Center and welcomed patrol officers who have parked their cars and come out to shake hands and talk with residents.
And they say the drug dealers are on the run, and they’re not happy about it.
“I’m getting phone calls asking me why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Lee, “and I said, ‘We’re not doing this. Y’all did this. We just fighting back.’”
Anthoney Hampton has been getting those calls, too.
“’I’m acting like the police. I’m bringing too much attention to this neighborhood,’” Hampton said the dealers tell him. “My response is, ‘The four homicides brought the attention to the neighborhood. I’m just in the forefront to keep people from dying.’
“Their whole concern is how much money they make. They’re not concerned about kids dying over here and people dying. And if that’s their concern, then the hell with them.”
IMPD has pledged to put more resources into the community and established a narcotics unit at the North District Headquarters.
Neighbors from the northend of the Butler-Tarkington community have offered to help and Lee said he is set to meet with leaders from Butler University to determine what assistance the community needs.
Late last week an ATF-led investigation cracked down on the Grundy Crew, led by Richard Grundy III, which detectives said terrorized the community south of 38th Street and west of Illinois Street.
Eleven people, including Grundy, now face enhanced drug, racketeering and murder charges.
A 22-month investigation, dependent on informants and recorded jailhouse phone conversations, has effected gutted the leadership and foot soldiers of the gang suspected in perhaps more than two dozen unsolved killings in Indianapolis since 2012.
“I think you can understand why those of us in the law enforcement community are pleased this afternoon. This is the kind of work that truly makes impact in our community,” said Assistant Chief Lloyd Crowe. “We want the Indianapolis community to know that we will continue working together to put a stop to these type of activities in our communities and neighborhoods.”
Grundy and several of his associates were locked up last winter on drug and gunplay charges while the leader now faces five counts of murder.
“This crew we know is a violent crew,” said Deputy Chief Bill Lorah. “We continue to investigate cases associated with this group and other groups. If you’re speaking to the violence in and around the lower half of Butler-Tarkington, we continue to work that area. We have intelligence that is unrelated to this group. On some violence that is occurring in that area, we think it's isolated with a small amount of individuals that are committing most of those crimes, but we continue to work with our partners in the Operations side in increased patrols. We have many many things going on in those areas to try to put a stop to that violence.”
The neighbors of South B/T say they not only have support in their community, they’ve got backing from friends they grew up with who are now serving time in state prisons.
One inmate wrote Lee, “I’ve been doing time since I was 15. I gave the streets so much and now I’m fed up. I was the wrong and now God’s been showing me the right way. I’m so proud. Keep up the good work.”