UPDATE: (Feb. 19, 2019) — Jonathan Belcher was found guilty but mentally ill on multiple counts, including battery and resisting law enforcement. He was sentenced to 53.5 years in jail as a result.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The man accused of throwing a fatal punch at a visiting Canadian businessman on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument last fall has been ordered “for examination concerning sanity.”
Marion Superior Judge Lisa Borges signed the order for Jonathan Belcher, 34, accused of punching David H. Smith in the side of the face and sending the visitor to pavement where he struck his head. Smith suffered brain damage and never recovered before life support was terminated last month at a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta.
Belcher faces six counts for the alleged attack on Smith and another woman, the most serious of which, aggravated battery posing a substantial risk of death, could result in just a 16-year prison sentence and $10,000 fine.
He’s currently being housed at Logansport State Hospital.
Two other times, cases against Belcher have been adjudicated with references to his lack of mental capacity.
Witnesses told State Capitol Police Belcher was shouting, “Get off my ship!” before the attack on Monument grounds last October and was spotted carrying on a conversation with an imaginary companion.
Belcher listed the same address for all three of his 2017 Indianapolis arrests.
On January 24, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention counted 1,682 homeless persons in Indianapolis and found 34 percent of them had serious mental illness issues.
For the past 18 months, the Reuben Engagement Center has struggled to fill two-thirds of its beds set aside for the homeless and those suffering from substance addiction and mental illness.
Under new protocols established in mid-June, IMPD delivered its first voluntary client to Reuben from its downtown district on Thursday.
“That’s a great option for us that we didn’t have before—to get some people some help rather than just trying to arrest our way out of it, which we know in law enforcement doesn’t work,” said IMPD Captain John Mann.
The Mobile Crisis Assistance Team (MCAT) pilot program located on IMPD’S East District has referred 27 clients to Reuben in seven months and might soon be expanded throughout the city.
“Initially we were working mostly with community partners—your mental health treatment centers, your shelters—and they were bringing people here initially,” said Brandi McCord, Reuben executive director.
Last year Reuben provided temporary housing for 940 clients.
This year’s number is just below 700, and McCord has a goal of 1,500 clients by the end of 2018.
“About 55 percent of the individuals who have come in here have been connected to that next-step treatment provider so they were ready for change,” said McCord. “The other individuals who were not connected were not ready for change, and they did self-exit.”
Mayor Joe Hogsett has included an assessment facility at his planned $570 million community justice center where ground is being prepared on East Prospect Street in the Twin Aire community.
Such a facility is intended to off-ramp arrestees and potential referrals before entering the new 3,000-bed Marion County Jail.
“You don’t want your jails to be overrun by people with low-level crimes who have mental health needs and addictions needs because the jails are not a good place to serve those individuals,” said McCord. “They just don’t have the capacity to offer them the services that the community mental health centers and treatment centers would be able to offer them otherwise.”
When CHIP published its Point-In-Time survey findings in May, Hosgett said, “Building on the 400 units of additional supportive housing we have identified, we remain focused on providing rental assistance and wraparound support services to ensure the long-term stability and success of our neighbors.”
Hogsett also issued a challenge to “identify an additional 400 units of permanent supportive housing for individuals currently experiencing homelessness,” according to a press release.
Captain Mann has identified those formerly homeless residents as the people who populate downtown street corners and parks— asking for money, sleeping in doorways and confronting each other on state-owned property.
“Although you’re housed, you’re homeless, and now you become housed, what are you gonna do?” Mann asked. “So you’ve got a place to go sleep at night, but what are you doing during the day? Well, if your ‘during the day’ is here or your ‘during the day’ is downtown, the perception could be that all these homeless don’t have a place or aren’t housed. And that’s not accurate.”
Visit Indy, the city’s convention booking agency, has expressed concern to the mayor that the evermore visible homeless population— which has staked its claim to the Mile Square after authorities cleaned up encampments under bridges, overpasses and on near-downtown streets—could be chasing away potential conference business and visitors.
“They’re tolerant of people sleeping,” said Mann, confirming that downtown residents, business people and guests are spotting more homeless under blankets in doorways and on benches day-and-night. “It’s the behaviors that cause an issue for us. They don’t like it when panhandlers become aggressive. They don’t like it when homeless leave trash and feces behind, and that’s what elevates it. And I think that’s where some people are becoming intolerant of the actions of some of the homeless, and its not all of them. Its just a few, and it’s the few that we work on, whether its getting medication or getting help or, in some cases, getting them housed.”