Author: Dea Lott/J4H3 (https://www.justice4herman3rd.org/)
February 17, 2023
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – On April 25, 2022, Herman Whitfield III was experiencing a mental health crisis at his home when his mother, Gladys Whitfield, called 9-1-1 to request emergency services to assist him. Instead of an ambulance, a total of six IMPD officers arrived and, without any provocation or threat, electrocuted and suffocated Herman III in his living room in front of his parents. After killing Herman, police started a warrantless search of the Whitfield home, grabbed and bruised Mrs. Whitfield’s arm, and chased Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield as they escaped their home to go with Herman III to the hospital. In the summer of 2022, the county coroner determined that Herman’s death was a homicide and the official cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest in the setting of law enforcement subdual, prone restraint, and conducted electrical weapon use.”
RELEASE OF POLICE BODY CAMERA FOOTAGE
When news broke of Herman III’s death, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) initially claimed that Herman charged at an officer in the moments before IMPD killed him, but the department did not release the body camera footage to the public. In response, Herman III’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit that offered details from their eyewitness accounts of how the officers killed their son. For two months, IMPD refused the family and the media’s request to release the body camera footage from the six officers who killed Herman. Then, in June 2022, IMPD released a biased, heavily edited, and narrated compilation of the footage. Thereafter, Herman III’s parents released a public statement describing the brutality that witnessed and endured when IMPD killed their son and, again, demanded the release of the complete and unedited body camera footage.
IMPD continued to ignore calls for the complete footage through the end of the year. As part of a wrongful death case, the family’s attorneys asked a federal court to order the City to release the footage. The City and IMPD fought against the release of the footage – arguing that the footage would bias potential jurors in the criminal proceedings. However, the federal court ultimately ordered the City to release complete footage to the family’s lawyers by early January 2023. After their attorneys received the footage, the Whitfield family directed their attorneys to release the complete and unedited body camera footage to the public.
BREAKDOWN OF THE NEWLY RELEASED BODY CAMERA FOOTAGE
The Justice for Herman Whitfield III Campaign continues to review the brutal homicide of Herman shown in the eleven-part file of the complete body camera footage. But, the Campaign wants the public to know that the following is shown in the newly released body camera footage:
As the family opened the door for the arrival of the first two police officers, Herman III’s father informed the officers that they should have sent an ambulance.
After the officers were inside the home, Herman’s mother, Gladys, expressed her concerns to an IMPD officer and asked, “They’re not going to kill him, are they?”
Herman III was naked, unarmed, posed no threat to the officers, and was actively trying to avoid them throughout the entire encounter.
One IMPD officer directed another officer to keep his taser aimed at an empty doorway in anticipation of electrocuting Herman III. As Herman entered the doorway and turned to avoid the officers, one of the officers tasered him twice.
IMPD officers then tackled Herman onto his stomach, held his head into the floor, and ignored his multiple cries that he could not breathe. A short time later, Herman went silent and became motionless.
One officer asked if they should reposition, but another officer refused to move Herman.
During this time, an officer told Herman’s parents that he was okay.
The officers held Herman III prone on his stomach for more than five minutes – without checking Herman’s pulse or giving him CPR.
Paramedics saw that Herman was restrained and face down on the floor, but wasted time asking him questions before checking his pulse and directing officers to roll him over.
In a press release, the family’s attorneys explained that the “video counters IMPD’s CIV, which inaccurately stated that Herman was dangerous, was throwing things, and rushed an officer. The body cam videos conclusively show that Herman was vulnerable, unarmed, naked, undergoing a mental health crisis, and never threatened the officers either verbally or physically. Rather than rushing towards an officer, the videos show that Herman was attempting to avoid them, even immediately before he was shot with the taser.”
FIRE THE SIX OFFICERS WHO KILLED HERMAN III
Last month, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Justice for Herman Whitfield III Campaign (“J4H3”) organized a rally in Indianapolis to publicly demand termination of the six officers who killed Herman. The Whitfield Family, their attorneys, the media, and supportive individuals and organizations attended the rally. Approximately 70 community members and media braved the winter cold and rain to demand justice for Herman, his family, and the Indianapolis community.
“Fire every officer. We’re not waiting on the prosecutor’s office. We’re not waiting on that process,” said Dea Lott, J4H3 campaign coordinator. “Take them off the street now. The community is concerned; the community is scared. The new video footage shows that IMPD violated their own policies and procedures, there’s no reason to wait.”
In a statement, read by Lott, the Whitfield family acknowledged that the homicide of their son is part of the historic and persistent epidemic of police violence in this country. Speakers from organizations comprising J4H3 offered statements of solidarity to the Whitfield family and repeated the campaign’s demands. In closing, participants walked around the Indianapolis Monument Circle four times to represent each decade of the life that Herman III should still be living today.
JUSTICE FOR HERMAN III CAMPAIGN
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Dept (“IMPD”) has one of the worst records for human rights violations in the United States and the state of Indiana has a weak record on police accountability. The Justice for Herman III Campaign is mobilizing grassroots efforts for a long campaign to demand change and volunteers need support as they:
- 1) Work on the ground to call on city leaders to fire and arrest the officers;
- 2) Train volunteers;
- 3) Conduct community outreach;
- 4) Organize our next protest in April 2023;
- 5) Demand arrest, prosecution & imprisonment of all 6 officers;
- 6) Demand a federal investigation of IMPD; and
- 7) Develop and demand reforms to get some semblance of justice for Herman III, his parents, and the community.
STAND WITH THE J4H3 CAMPAIGN IN ONE OF 5 WAYS
1) DONATE to this GOFUNDME
2) SHARE THIS GOFUNDME to bring awareness to this cause in your circles around the country and pressure local leaders to take action
3) FOLLOW on Facebook and Instagram & USE the hashtags #justice4herman3rd and #hermanwhitfieldiii
4) LEARN MORE at the J4H3’s Website
5) SIGN UP to volunteer at J4H3’s Website
This statement was provided by the Justice for Herman Whitfield III Campaign. The Campaign is coordinated by Dea Lott, a close friend of the Whitfield family, and the Whitfield family appreciates the campaign’s support. The Campaign consists of many individuals who knew and dearly miss Herman III, numerous Indianapolis activists, and grassroots and faith-based organizations. Some of these organizations include: The Party for Socialism and Liberation – Indianapolis Chapter, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition (ANSWER) – Indiana Chapter, The Communist Party of Indiana – CPUSA, The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union, Local 372-A, The Black Liberation Party, and Hope Packages.