INDIANAPOLIS — According to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) within the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is one of the most common crimes law enforcement officers respond to.
“One thing we do know is that the police runs with domestic violence, that’s one of the most dangerous runs that the police can do,” said Danyette Smith, a domestic violence survivor and the founder and executive director of Silent No More, Inc.
This proved to be the case once again after an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer responding to a call for a domestic disturbance on Indianapolis’ northeast side was shot Wednesday night.
Two other victims, a 41-year-old woman and an 11-year-old girl were also shot during the incident. On Friday IMPD announced, despite the best efforts of medical professionals, the woman has died. “We continue to be hopeful the 11-year-old victim will survive her injuries,” wrote the department.
It happened when officers responded to 7500 block of Bayview Drive for a domestic disturbance call, believed to have been made from someone inside the apartment. IMPD said officers tried to make contact with people inside but received no response.
New details released Thursday show around the same time an officer began to check the perimeter of the apartment, three children exited through a window and shots were fired from inside. The officer checking the perimeter of the apartment was shot in the leg, IMPD said.
Investigators believe a disturbance between a woman, who was one of the victims injured in the shooting, and the suspect, a 32-year-old man, led up to the incident. They also believe the suspect retrieved a gun and held five people, including the two shooting victims and three children hostage.
Police said the suspect took his life and no officers fired their weapons during the incident.
The other three children were uninjured, police said, and the officer injured was released from the hospital Thursday.
“I think this highlights exactly what our officers are out there doing every day and facing every day,” said Craig McCartt, deputy chief of Criminal Investigations at IMPD. “It may sound cliché, but I mean, I think this highlights them — the fact that they are actually out there risking their lives every day.”
“When I see it happen on the news it just is a reminder of how many families are still suffering in silence, how many families may not know what resources are out here and the trauma that the children and family is facing while in it,” said Smith.
According to IMPD, since the start of 2021, there have been 3,719 reports made to the Domestic Violence Unit and a majority of those have been assigned to detectives. Those cases not assigned to detectives are provided to the Victim Assistance Unit for follow-up, IMPD explained.
“Domestic runs, those are the ones that always cause great concern,” said McCartt.
“We know that there’s never really a routine run but I think that, you know, our senses are always heightened a little bit on domestic runs because there’s just so much uncertainty.”
McCartt explained, in domestic disturbances, there can be times where a lot of emotion is involved, and it can cause people to become volatile.
“Tactically they try to approach very cautiously because they never know what will happen,” McCartt said. “The people involved are very emotional. Sometimes they have this sense of hopelessness that will make them do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do.”
McCartt said when officers respond to these types of runs, they are careful and take every precaution possible, but that doesn’t always keep them safe.
“I mean we may go to 100 of them and 99 of them we’re able to handle without any kind of great drama or any kind of danger,” said McCartt, “but you know it’s that one in 100 that we really have to be ready for and make sure that we’ve done everything that we can to keep ourselves and everyone else safe.”
He said whenever officers are able to de-escalate a situation and bring some calmness to the situation, offer resources, and help out those involved, that is their priority.
“So that hopefully we don’t have to go back and do that all over again at some point in the future,” he said.
McCartt said sometimes officers find that they return to the same home on multiple occasions on domestic runs so when the address comes out, they may already know who is involved and what to possibly expect.
However, he also shared, “many times it’s people who we haven’t dealt with before or at least in that capacity so we really never know.”
In the incident that happened Wednesday evening, that appears to be the case.
According to IMPD, the department did not have any previous runs to that location in 2021. The only known incident report involving the suspect is when he was issued a traffic summons in 2020, police say.
Wednesday’s shooting wasn’t the first time the department has been impacted by a domestic incident-turned-violent against officers.
In April 2020 IMPD Officer Breann Leath was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call on the east side. She was only 24 years old and left behind a young child.
Officer Rod Bradway, a father of two, was fatally shot in Sept. 2013 while trying to help a woman and child being held hostage at gunpoint on the city’s northwest side.
“I think those kinds of things are always in the back of officers’ minds and sometimes it can certainly serve as a reminder and keep us from getting complacent as we go to these,” said McCartt.
Smith said, “With Breann Leath and with the other officers that have been impacted by domestic violence, that’s something that I was hoping would really bring light to the situation of domestic violence is more than just a problem. It’s bigger than a problem.”
“If we don’t continue as a city, a system to put our eyes directly on domestic violence, we’ll continue to see officers being shot, we’ll continue to see murder-suicides, we’ll continue to see victims getting killed, unfortunately, and trauma for those children that have to grow up and live with that experience,” she continued.
“We don’t want this to happen to the next individual. We are praying and begging for you to just reach out,” Smith said.
McCartt said the department wants to help people in domestic violence situations through their Victim Assistance Unit, and also encourages people in need of help or safety planning to reach out to an organization in the community able to assist. Some of those include:
- Beacon of Hope Crisis Center
- Families First (Breaking Free)
- The Salvation Army/Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center
- Coburn Place
- The Julian Center
“If that one resource doesn’t have anything, if that one shelter is full, don’t stop. Please don’t stop. Continue to look. Continue to call,” said Smith, who is on the front lines of the fight against domestic violence in the Indianapolis area.
You can also contact Smith’s organization, Silent No More, where they offer crisis intervention, emergency shelter placement, survivor advocacy and more.
“If that one resource doesn’t work, we’ll connect you with another and stick by you until you’re fully connected and able to safely leave that domestic violence situation because we do know the most dangerous thing with domestic violence is leaving. That’s the most dangerous part of the domestic violence situation is when you’re fleeing that abuser,” Smith shared.
She wants people to know there is hope out there to get out of a situation and she’s living proof of that.
“I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I literally had a gun placed to my head. I literally had to remove the gun from his head because he wanted to kill his self,” she said. “Those things are fear, so I totally understand what you as a victim are going through. All that we ask as advocates is to reach out. Listen and see what it is that can be done for that domestic violence that you’re dealing with.”
“Don’t give up, don’t think that there’s not hope out here because it is. I am a living witness, and I am willing to share my story with anybody who wants to know that’s in that situation.”
You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 (SAFE) or visit their website to learn more.