In Indiana, lawyers for the family of Herman Whitfield III have released body-camera videos from the night Whitfield was killed in his parents’ home by Indianapolis police officers. Whitfield was an award-winning African American piano virtuoso who would have turned 40 years old last October. Early on April 25 of last year, Whitfield’s parents called 911 to ask for help as their son experienced a mental health crisis. Six armed police officers responded to the call. Whitfield family lawyer Richard Waples told Democracy Now! the videos show officers failed to call an ambulance and did not bring in mental health professionals as the family requested. Instead they responded with deadly force.
Richard Waples: “They tased him. Then they got on top of him and cuffed him up and kept him prone down, even though he was crying out he couldn’t breathe. All this was captured on the bodycam videos, which the police then would not let us have.”
The Marion County Coroner’s Office later determined the cause of Whitfield’s death was homicide. The city of Indianapolis and its police department fought for months to block a judge’s order that raw videos of Whitfield’s killing be made public. Herman Whitfield’s mother, Gladys Whitfield, told Democracy Now! that Indianapolis police instead released a highly edited and narrated video which didn’t show the whole story.
Gladys Whitfield: “In my opinion, the police department has been anything but transparent concerning the circumstances of our son’s killing. And in my opinion, IMPD has taken every opportunity to obscure the facts and present a distorted view of what happened.”
Whitfield’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Indianapolis and the six officers who responded to the 911 call.