INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Metropolitan police released body camera footage following the April 2022 death of a man in their custody.
The parents of Herman Whitfield III called 911 on April 25 because their 39-year-old son was having a mental health episode. In the 911 call released by police, Herman Whitfield can be heard screaming in the background as his mother attempts to provide information to a dispatcher.
The video from IMPD has been edited and is not the raw body camera footage from the incident.
Police were dispatched around 3:20 a.m. to the 3700 block of Marrison Place. Whitfield’s father met them at the door and said his adult son was “having a psychosis.” His parents requested an ambulance.
When police entered the home, they reported seeing Whitfield standing naked in a hallway and sweating. He moved around the house and was bleeding from the mouth. Officers attempted to get him to come to the door so they could talk to him.
WARNING: Video contains images some viewers may find disturbing. The footage has been provided and edited by IMPD.
The video says officers talked to Whitfield for about 10 minutes. While Whitfield was capable of speaking, he didn’t respond to their instructions or try to engage in conversation. Police lost sight of him as he moved through different rooms in the house.
Whitfield eventually sat on a bed as police continued to try to communicate with him, the video showed. His parents gathered some clothes and attempted to convince him to get dressed. Whitfield then got up off the bed and came toward his parents and an officer in the hallway.
He went into the kitchen, he started throwing items around, the video showed. When Whitfield next went into the dining room; an officer in the living room deployed a Taser.
“Fire! Fire! Fire!” Whitfield is heard yelling on camera.
“Stay down. Stay down. Don’t move,” an officer is heard saying.
As Whitfield thrashed on the floor and yelled, police deployed the Taser a second time.
Each activation lasted five seconds. According to IMPD, each use of the Taser is “considered as an independent use of force.”
The video showed officers attempting to put handcuffs on Whitfield, who struggled and yelled. Police placed Whitfield in two sets of linked handcuffs to subdue him; he remained on his stomach. Medics entered about three minutes later, IMPD said. By that time, Whitfield was unresponsive when he was rolled over. Medics checked his pulse and initiated CPR.
He died at an area hospital.
Attorneys for Whitfield’s family contend Whitfield said “I can’t breathe” three times after police used the Taser. The body camera footage makes it difficult to hear, although it does sound like Whitfield says “I can’t breathe” about at 10:20 and 10:42 into the video. Shortly after that, he is silent.
Whitfield’s family released a statement in response to the release of the Critical Incident Video, and said the video is a selective and biased account of the events and that the entire body cam videos capturing the events of April 25, 2022 leading up to Herman’s death should be released.
The CIV is biased in that it selectively includes narration and text to present a false narrative of what happened and leaves out important points which should be acknowledge by IMPD but which the CIV shows.Family of Herman Whitfield, III
One example the family gives is that the CIV narration and text said after about 10 minutes of not responding, Herman rushed to the kitchen and started throwing items around.
The family said that the only item he threw, was when he picked up an empty plastic water pitcher, was told to put it down and in response he tossed it in the air.
The family added that he did not throw anything at anyone.
More examples can be seen in the full statement below.
FOX59 asked IMPD Chief Randal Taylor if the department will be releasing all of the unedited body camera footage. Taylor said the department would review the possibility after the investigation is concluded.
Chief Taylor said that the CIV was released, like others, for the public to understand that IMPD is being transparent. He added that this video was much different than others that have been shared.
“A lot of the ones we have had, have been officer involved shootings and those type of things. And you can kind of figure out what happened in that,” said Taylor. “This one not necessarily so. This one, is very different in the fact that we don’t have an autopsy report, a complete report available.”
Chief Taylor said it may be something they put out later once that report is complete.
“I would have liked to have had that in the video, but I’m not sure when that will be done,” Chief Taylor said.
The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Indianapolis and the six officers who responded to the Whitfield home.
The coroner’s office has yet to release the official cause of death pending toxicology results. The officers are currently on administrative duty.
IMPD’s Critical Response Team is investigating Whitfield’s death. IMPD Internal Affairs is investigating to make sure department policies were followed. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is being consulted, police said.
The civilian majority Use of Force Board will also review the case.
FOX59 also asked Chief Taylor about how IMPD responds to calls involving mental health issues.
“The public often talks about having someone other than law enforcement responds to mental health crises, and we have no objection but unfortunately there is no one stepping up to take that spot. If those people can be found, and are willing to do that, then we would certainly entertain that idea,” Taylor explained.
The department does have MCAT units which pairs a clinician with an officer. However, at the time of the call involving Whitfield, it was outside the MCAT units’ working hours, 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“If we could get ours to be 24 hours, 7 days a week, that would be huge for us. We can provide the officer, but you have to have a clinician as well,” Taylor said. “I don’t think the clinicians are typically used to working those overnight hours. Hopefully we’ll come up with a solution for that. It’s not difficult for us to get officers that would be interested in that but are also willing to work those late night hours, or the weekends.”
Chief Taylor added that all IMPD officers do go through an 8-hour training course in mental health first aid. And that they are also put through training revolving around communication and de-escalation, and then control.