Deadly attempted robbery shines light on problems with Irvington shopping center

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Marion County Coroner’s Office has identified Ja’Shawn Taylor, 15, as the person shot to death during an attempted robbery of an east side pawn shop Wednesday.

Homicide detectives with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department recovered a gun and are searching for an accomplice.

Shadonna Taylor told FOX59 that she last spoke to her son two hours before the shooting as he was with friends not far from his west side home and that later she received a phone call on Ja’Shawn’s cell phone, she assumes from one of those friends, telling her he was dead.

“I’ve got a knot in my stomach. It’s completely tragic and probably in a lot of ways avoidable,” said longtime Irvington resident Dan Adams. “Maybe if that place doesn’t exist in its current form…that makes it an avoidable tragedy.”

“That place” Adams was referring to is the Irvington Plaza, a nearly deserted and partially demolished shopping area in the 6200 block of East Washington Street where the fatal shooting outside of EZ PAWN occurred.

Built in 1952, the Plaza was until recently home to Marsh, one of the few supermarkets serving the Irvington area, but has since fallen on hard times.

“It’s been going downhill as a property itself, and I won’t lay that on Marsh, but it’s probably more of a landlord thing,” said Adams of Artisan Realtor who blames the property’s Florida owner. “I mean it’s literally falling apart. They just demolished one building in the wind storm last week. The Dollar General store had one side blow off last week. I understand they’re moving but there are very few tenants there and the tenants that are there are not as desirable as we would like.”

Earlier this month the Urban Land Institute unveiled a 61-page plan that would transform the property into a mixed-use development with housing, businesses and community space.

“I know a lot of people are concerned about how empty that space is. It’s not bringing a ton of value to the community currently, empty as it is. It’s also not an infrastructure worth saving,” said Elysia Smith, owner of Irvington Vinyl & Records and President of the Irvington Business Association who was interviewed for the ULI study. “It will make Irvington more accessible for people who live between State and Emerson that haven’t really come here and made this community their home but really can’t afford to move downtown and make that community their home.”

Smith worries that development of the Irvington Plaza site would enhance the area while pushing out residents who could no longer afford to live in the neighborhood and Wednesday’s fatal shooting may detract from the conversation about an all-inclusive community.

“I think it’s going to be unfortunately really easy for the neighborhood to find a way to demonize this kid and find a way to make a claim for a different kind of development there but that just worsens the disparity and worsens the problem,” she said. “This 15-year-old teenager is a victim of us hoarding resources in this community.”

A review of IMPD records shows police have visited the EZ PAWN store more than 200 times since the start of 2015, often in the search of stolen items but also to respond to alarms, disorderly persons, assaults and thefts.

“I think it is the perceptions of a lot of people that pawn shops are magnets for negative situations,” said Smith. “It’s is also probably the privilege of a lot of people that they’ve never had to go to a pawn shop so I think until you have to depend upon a pawn shop you don’t really get to decide if it really exists.”

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