INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is crediting help from community members as playing a crucial role in a recent arrest.
According to police, community cooperation, investigative tools and technology, and work by IMPD’s Violent Crimes Task Force detectives combined to help solve a case and lead to the arrest of a teenage boy Monday night.
Neighbors in the Emerson Heights neighborhood on Indy’s east side said they were experiencing repeated incidents of shots fired and told police it was happening “night after night.” They told FOX59 they were fed up and decided to do something about it.
“We have our Emerson Heights neighborhood page, so we communicate a little bit, drop ideas and things that we hear and see through that,” said resident Heather Keeney.
Keeney said neighbors began to realize they had videos and photos showing the exact make and model of a vehicle in the area as shots were fired.
“So we had this great eyewitness account of it, but that’s where we were. We were stuck there,” said Keeney.
She said, residents worked to gather their videos and photos and provide the information to IMPD. Police said they received calls, emails and people spoke with officers at a recent public meeting to help share information.
“We’ve had community meetings; actually one of our neighbors just hosted a roll call lunch, recently on Sunday, and so we got to talk with a few people there. We also have a NESCO (Near East Side Community Organization) representative for crime prevention who came out at that point,” said Keeney. “Everybody has been in contact with the detectives and they’ve kind of weaved their webs together on their end, we’ve continued to communicate whatever we say, whatever we hear, and really be as open to them as possible.”
According to police, they began to receive reports last month about the shots fired and investigated several incidents.
IMPD said it was the help of residents sharing video feeds and photos of the potential suspect vehicle as well as providing accurate and detailed information when calling 911, emailing police or speaking with officers, that helped the detective on the case put together pieces of the puzzle and develop a suspect.
“Whenever there’s a particular area with a strong community base, we get more done,” said Sgt. Genae Cook. “The people that live in that community, they work together; they get to know who is familiar with that area, who’s not familiar with that area, so when they see something, they say something.”
According to IMPD, the suspect vehicle was observed by officers in the Irvington area Monday night and officers initiated a traffic stop. Detectives said a teenage boy was the only person in the vehicle.
IMPD said officers located a gun in the vehicle and it was determined that the person was prohibited from possessing a firearm.
“Teenagers shouldn’t be worried about a gun charge. What they should be worried about is what their homework is that night. That should be their biggest worry,” said Cook.
“Everybody needs to step up and be that example to the youth, who need to look for a role model,” said Cook. “Look for someone who is a good example in your life and talk to them, follow them.”
Police said the suspect was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and the investigation into the circumstances surrounding this case continues.
Cook said this case serves as a reminder of how important it is for residents, who are the eyes and ears of their community, to understand the value they have when it comes to keeping their community safe along with police.
“It’s a big city and we can only be in so many places at so many times, so we rely on the community to come forward,” Cook said.
Neighbors told FOX59 it was not a question that they were going to step up rather than sitting back. The feeling of what they called repeated gunfire left many feeling uneasy and wanting to do something to stop it.
“It was hard. There wasn’t a lot that we could do until they were apprehended. It is scary. I think I’m a little lucky, I’m just on the other side of 9th Street, so I feel like it was a little bit more detached,” said Keeney. “Going to sleep with the windows open with a little bit cooler weather and for people who it was right in their backyard, it would’ve been even more terrifying.”
Even still, Keeney said hearing it from any distance, was enough to leave an unsettling feeling.
“The sound, it just vibrates your house windows, and you don’t know, like is this something at us or is this around us again? Even then, everything that goes up, must come down,” said Keeney.
Investigators said shell casings were recovered, but fortunately no people or property were reportedly hit.
Both IMPD and residents said they are glad there was a resolution to the case before the situation had the opportunity to get worse.
“Some people think, well it’s just a shot fired. When that bullet comes down, it’s going to hit something whether it’s a house, a vehicle, or a person,” said Cook.
Emerson Heights residents said that’s what they were afraid of.
“It was very close. About three or four or five shots. I just hit the floor,” said Tasha Fultz, whose mother lives in the neighborhood. “It was too close. I don’t want to get shot. I just dropped to the floor.”
Fultz lost her own son to gunfire and said she wants people to think about the repercussions that shooting a gun can have, especially when innocent lives are at stake.
“It can go through a home; it could hit innocent people. It’s the stray bullet you know. It can hit anybody,” said Fultz.
“On the last night, which was Sunday, they did it twice. To have guts like, this neighborhood doesn’t mean anything and nobody’s going to do anything about it, and you know what, we did,” said Keeney.
Keeney said she’s proud to live in the neighborhood she does. It’s a place of people who she said want to keep their community a safe place to live and work, and she hopes this never happens again. She also encourages anyone else that may have a concern where they live, to speak up and work with neighbors and police to accomplish a common goal.
Keeney said, “We talked to one another, we videoed, we communicated the times, the places, we turned it in to the police; we made sure that all those steps were being followed and then the end result was, we gotcha!”
The investigation into these incidents continues, police said. They encourage anyone else with information to reach out to IMPD or Crime Stoppers at (317) 262-TIPS (8477).