INDIANAPOLIS — As peacekeepers employed by Indianapolis’ Office of Public Health and Safety, John Barnett and friends would circulate through the community, respond to crime scenes and make referrals for people in trouble.
Saturday night, Barnett’s co-workers were at the location of his killing at 34th Street and Keystone Avenue.
“Just stopped to get gas. Minding our own business. Just stopped to get gas, and shots rang out, and it happened so fast,” recalled Barnett’s girlfriend, Ebony Sanders. ”I don’t think it had anything to do with his job, I don’t think it had anything to do with him or anything.”
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating whether Barnett was a victim of mistaken identity.
His co-workers at OPHS have seen too many of their friends fall to gun violence.
“What they’ve been going through is these individuals have been doing it for decades, and this isn’t the first time they’ve lost a friend to gun violence or family member or co-worker,” said Dane Nutty, president of the Indianapolis Public Safety Foundation, which partners with OPHS. “Not only did they say, ‘Yes, we want to continue doing this work,’ but the sentiments we heard was, ‘We know now we need to do it even better, we need to step up our game, we need to do more, and we need to do that for JB’s legacy and for the legacy of all individuals who are victims of gun violence in the city.’”
OPHS Executive Director Lauren Rodriguez said she held an emotional meeting with her outreach workers, life coaches and violence interrupters the day after Barnett’s killing.
“It was not an easy thing. It was not something that I had prepared for. It was hard.”
Rodriguez’ eyes welled with tears as she sat at a picnic table in Riverside Park where just a few nights earlier she watched Barnett ride bicycles with west-side neighborhood kids.
”It is important to talk about his legacy and the work that he’s been doing,” she said.
Sanders struggled to understand the tragedy that took the father of her 1-year-old child.
“A lot of people look up to JB. You know what I’m saying? Younger guys and whatever, a lot of people really look up to him and like him just because how he was,” she said. ”JB was the coolest of the cool. Don’t nobody can say nothing bad on his name, nothing.”
While Sanders was talking to detectives investigating JB’s murder until early Sunday morning, someone parked a stolen car in front of her home and broke in.
Nothing of value was taken. She thinks the intruders ran out the back when she pulled up in the driveway. IMPD is trying to determine if the burglary has anything to do with the murder.