INDIANAPOLIS — Metro police have arrested suspects in more than two dozen homicides that have happened in the Indianapolis community since the start of year and said the public has also stepped up to help.
“People don’t want violence in the community and we’ve seen that this year. We’ve seen the community respond very strongly against violence,” said Commander Matthew Thomas with IMPD’s Criminal Investigations Division.
By mid-June, IMPD reported arrests in at least 26 of this year’s murders. In 100 percent of those arrests, police officials said members of the community cooperated with investigators in some way.
“IMPD is constantly looking at the past to prepare for the future, and in doing so, we’ve recognized a pattern with the cases that are successful in getting charged. That pattern is community cooperation,” Thomas said.
After these crimes happen, IMPD detectives gather evidence, speak with potential witnesses, identify anyone believed to be involved and take steps to hold them accountable. Unfortunately, there are times where that isn’t enough, especially if the only witnesses present during a crime refuse to cooperate with the investigation.
“A criminal investigation has many facets and all of the pieces matter. That’s why it’s important when we talk about community cooperation, that even the smallest piece of information is provided to investigators,” said Thomas. “Our investigators may find that it’s a really small piece of information that pushes a case over the edge.”
In order for prosecutors to file formal charges, they need to believe they can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s why investigators also need to make sure they build a strong criminal case on the front end and said it’s even stronger when people in the community work with them on it.
“There are many times where we have identified a suspect in a case, but we aren’t able to bring it to the point of charges being filed, but it’s important to note that many of these cases just need one more piece of information, so our investigators are constantly looking for that additional morsel of evidence,” said Thomas.
Cooperating with police isn’t always a matter of being a physical eyewitness to a crime.
IMPD said community cooperation could be anything from writing down and sharing a partial or full license plate of a vehicle seen at or near a crime scene, a vehicle description, sharing a basic account of events if you witnessed something or even sharing if you’re aware of someone else who witnessed a crime.
Technology is expanding the definition of community cooperation even more. In some cases, it has played a crucial role in helping support the events that happened.
“Now we’re seeing through the use of their personally owned technology, maybe a doorbell camera or private video camera system, that information is crucial and it is becoming more and more relevant in criminal cases,” said Thomas. “We find that neighborhoods who invest in this technology have more successful outcomes.”
An example of the community providing information and video that contributed to an arrest was in the murder of 32-year-old Sheridan Tom in April.
Court documents show Tom was lured to an abandoned home and fatally shot before the three people accused in his murder allegedly took $160 from him.
A probable cause affidavit also laid out the combination of investigative work by detectives, witnesses cooperating with the investigation and sharing what they saw or heard, and security video from nearby homes and businesses that corroborated a timeline of events.
“In this case, especially, there was a lot of cooperation from family, friends, the public that made this case really come together quickly,” said Detective Chris Edwards during an interview with FOX59 in May.
“Evidence like video surveillance and fingerprints and DNA, all that stuff is great, but a lot of times we need to find out where that evidence is. It’s like a giant puzzle piece and everybody, witnesses, family, friends, everybody has a little piece of that puzzle and my job as the detective is to go out and find those puzzle pieces,” said Det. Edwards.
Homicide detectives were able to arrest two people for their accused role in Tom’s murder, and a third suspect, a 17-year-old boy, was also arrested in connection to the crime.
In another case, the deadly stabbing of 24-year-old Taylor George at a park downtown, court records show multiple witnesses cooperated and helped identify the murder suspect.
“One eyewitness who didn’t think they had much to offer the case in fact, they could be that difference maker,” said Thomas.
“Our detectives need that support. They can’t do this alone,” said Thomas.
While not every case is necessarily at a standstill without the community’s input, investigators said, the more they are able to work with the community, the more families of crime victims they can help provide with answers.
Unsolved 2022 homicides
Indianapolis has seen 101 homicides since the start of 2022, compared to 117 at this time the previous year. Around two-thirds of murders that happened this year remain unsolved and investigators and families of victims alike hope people will continue to stand up for their loved ones and help share information.
In early May, 46-year-old Gary Wayne Underwood was shot and killed at a near east side gas station during a carjacking. His family said he was just stopping at the gas station to buy a drink and play some lottery tickets, when he was killed by an armed robber.
“He had a heart of gold. He would do anything for anybody,” said Nancy Myers, Underwood’s sister.
Investigators believe that Underwood’s murder was the result of an armed carjacking/robbery. According to police, the suspect took off in the victim’s Hummer after the killing, which was later located, abandoned.
“To be quite honest, he took my brother’s last breath, but my brother would have given him his last breath. I don’t think that he knew that,” said Myers. “It’s been a living nightmare.”
Myers said she forgives the person who killed her brother, but worries until an arrest is made, there’s a chance another family could face the same reality they’re enduring. She is begging anyone with information on the person who took his life to come forward.
“I just don’t want something like this to happen to someone else,” said Myers.
Underwood left behind a large family of kids and grandkids, now hoping that anyone in the community will do what’s right and tell police information that could lead to finding the person responsible for his death.
“It doesn’t take one person, it takes a village, it takes a community. Someone knows something, whether it be a mother, a father, please, please,” said Myers.
IMPD released photos of the suspect in the killing and shared information, while family said they’ve printed more than 1,000 flyers and hung them across the city, including in the area where Underwood’s vehicle was found abandoned, but still no arrests have been made.
“Someone knows something,” said Myers, who is hoping for justice and that the community will band together to share information that identifies the suspect and helps police make an arrest.
The suspect is described as a black male, late teens to early twenties, 5’7″ – 5’10, with a slender build, according to police.
Anyone with information about this incident should contact Detective Ryan Clark at the IMPD Homicide Office at (317) 327-3475 or e-mail him at Ryan.Clark@indy.gov.
Alternatively, you can call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at (317) 262-8477 or (TIPS) to remain anonymous. This also applies to any homicide that people may wish to provide information on.