SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Speedway Police Department is investigating after an emergency call Wednesday night prompted a large police response to a home in the area of West 12th and North Auburn Streets around 8 p.m.
Lieutenant Jim Thiele with SPD said, “The call was transferred to us from the Indiana State Police, indicating that there was a person who had stated that he had shot someone inside a house here in Speedway, and our officers were responding to that scene to investigate that.”
The address given to police was actually the home where Lonnie Burley, who has lived in Speedway for more than 40 years, resides. Burley said she was getting some spring cleaning done with the help of a friend, when she looked outside and noticed the commotion.
“I actually went over to my living room window and saw that there were several police cars out and guns drawn,” said Burley. “My friend noticed that the guns were pointed to my residence, or he thought that was the case, and so we went from there to the back bedroom to hide.”
“I really thought they were chasing someone — after someone. I really didn’t know what was going on and from there we ended up in the bathroom because I thought, I didn’t want to be near any windows,” she said.
Burley said they continued to hide, assuming that someone was on her property and that was the cause for the police response.
“I never thought for one moment that it was targeted at my house. Not for one moment,” she said.
Lt. Thiele explained, officers had to treat the scene like an active shooter situation, not knowing where the person was that called to report the emergency, or what they planned to do.
“Officers who were responding to the scene were informed that the caller had indicated that after he had shot someone, that he intended to come out of the house and surrender to the police when they responded,” said Thiele. “Officers that responded to the scene were preparing for a suspect to come out, not knowing whether that suspect was going to surrender peacefully or possibly be armed.”
As officers announced their presence and requested for those in the home to come out, Burley said they were completely unaware, and could not hear the requests from where they were located.
Next door to Burley is neighbor and friend of more than 20 years, Lori Shoemaker. She said she had just returned home, when she saw several police officers in the alley with no lights or sirens on.
“I asked because I’m the nosy neighbor, what’s going on, and he just told me to get back in the house that someone had been shot,” said Shoemaker.
Shoemaker said she hadn’t heard any sound of gunshots, and based on where she could see officers, knew they were responding to the home of one of her two neighbors, Burley or the next one over, both whom she is close with.
Shoemaker immediately called Burley to check on her and learned that they were okay. She said she told officers she had her neighbor on the phone and that it was a misunderstanding — Burley and her friend were safe, and nobody had been shot.
This was the first time that Burley learned police were focusing in on her home.
“This is traumatic enough to know that your house is targeted and you’re not even sure why and at the time, we were not even sure it was my house,” she said.
Meantime, Shoemaker was told by officers that she needed to call dispatch and explain to them the situation.
“Then they told me to tell them to come out with their hands up,” said Shoemaker.
As Burley was on the phone with dispatch, she said she is proud of her clear thinking and effective communication in the midst of a tense moment, where she had no clue what was happening.
One minute she was spring cleaning, the next she was being told to come out and surrender to police with her hands in the air.
Burley said the dispatcher informed her that she would need to empty her pockets and put down her cell phone as she walked out to show herself to police. She credits the dispatcher’s clear instructions that helped keep her level-headed in a difficult moment.
“I told her I was not opening my front door until I heard her tell the police outside my residence that I was coming out,” said Burley. She said she had the phone on speaker as she prepared to exit, so she knew officers had confirmed she would be coming out of the home.
“I had some boundaries set for myself, I wasn’t just going to open the door and come out,” she said.
Still confused over what was happening herself, Burley said, “My first thought was what are the neighbors thinking, because I have done nothing wrong.”
“I tried to keep my eyes down because there were so many rifles pointed at me and at the home.”
“I felt very sad – I was embarrassed for her. I’ve been her neighbor for 20 plus years, know what kind of woman she is,” said Shoemaker, as she watched Burley and then her friend slowly make their way down the driveway and to officers.
She said her mind instantly went to the “what ifs,” like whether there could be someone outside who really was armed and now her friends just came out of a home in the open.
Burley said she carefully followed directions and complied with officers, who told her to come down the driveway slowly with her hands in the air, instructing her where to walk the entire time.
When she reached one officer, she said he was kind enough to ask her if she understood what was happening. “My answer was no, and he divulged the story behind all of this.”
Burley said she is proud of herself for maintaining a sense of calmness and credits her neighbor for communicating with police, since she was unaware of anything going on outside the walls of her home as she hid from what she believed to be the suspect, not knowing it was quite the opposite.
As police explained, they can never be too prepared when it comes to approaching a situation like this, especially where it is believed that a person was injured, and another was armed.
“We prepare as if it’s the worst-case scenario that we could possibly imagine that way hopefully we’re ready for anything that may occur,” said Lt. Thiele.
It is early in the investigation, but police are working to determine whether this situation was the result of ‘swatting,’ which is when a prank call is made to police in an attempt to draw a large response to a location.
“Whether this was a swatting incident or some sort of mistake, we’re not quite sure of that, we are investigating that,” said Thiele.
“We do not believe that the call originated from within the house. We believe it came from another location. We are still trying to determine the exact location and who that caller was,” he shared.
Thiele said something like swatting or prank calls also pose a danger to the public, as officers thinking they are responding to an active shooter or emergency, they are driving with emergency vehicles and lights and sirens on, which always adds an additional risk on the road.
This scenario also poses the potential that if another emergency happens, a significant number of resources are tied up elsewhere.
“It is definitely a risk to the public if we have a lot of those responding SWAT units at the scene thinking they are dealing with an actual emergency if a true emergency occurred somewhere else that they would be needed more,” said Thiele.
He said Wednesday, officers determined earlier-on that this was not what they initially responded to, so they were able to relieve some of the SWAT units responding.
While Thiele understands people are concerned when they see something like this, he said if officers ask you to go inside, to comply with their requests. He said it’s out of concerns for safety, recognizing it is potentially dangerous to be outdoors until the situation is resolved.”
“It’s very dangerous for us and the public if someone does call in a crime that actually did not occur,” he shared. If someone did falsely call in a crime here, Thiele said the department will work to make that determination and hold the person accountable.
As the department works to investigate where the call originated and who placed it, Burley’s daughter, Katie Grill said she is so thankful her mother is okay.
She learned of the incident while on Facebook, noting that there were comments at the time, alleging a person had been shot. She noticed the direction of the guns pointed at the home in the photo matched that of her mom’s.
Grill said, “I thought oh my gosh, that’s my mom’s house. What is happening?”
“I just started crying thinking all the thoughts that would go through my head,” she said.
Grill said her mom finally picked up when everything was over, and a sigh of relief passed over her. She hasn’t stopped thinking about it since yesterday.
“I’m still pretty upset about it,” said Grill. “My mom is a really strong person.”
“Once I got on the phone, she was like, ‘oh you’ll never guess what happened,’” said Grill. “I don’t think she realized how different it could have come out.”
Grill said she is thankful to Shoemaker for looking out for her mother during the ordeal. She knows her mother was nervous and doesn’t know whether she would have come out had Shoemaker not communicated to let her know that she HAD to come out.”
According to Grill, her mother still didn’t believe they were there for her until she made it all the way to the officers. “She thought somebody else was in trouble,” not her.
“She has had a good spirit through this, I think I have been more upset just because a lot of what ifs have gone through my head,” Grill said.
The incident remains under investigation by the Speedway Police Department.