Judge dismisses wrongful death complaint against Indy, IMPD in ex-IU football player’s shooting death

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Thousands turned out for protests against police brutality on May 30, 2020, before weekend demonstrations turned violent. (IL file photo)

A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death complaint against the city of Indianapolis and its police force in the death of former Indiana University football player Chris Beaty, who was fatally shot in 2020 after protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent.

But the judge’s ruling leaves the door open for the plaintiff to revisit her state-law claim.

Beaty, a downtown Indianapolis resident, died shortly before midnight on May 30, 2020, while attempting to assist someone who was being robbed, according to the wrongful death suit filed by his mother, Debra Cooper. Beaty was shot by one or more of the robbers and died at the scene near his North Delaware Street home, the suit says.

Cooper filed her complaint in May 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against the city of Indianapolis, Mayor Joe Hogsett, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and IMPD Chief Randal Taylor. In July, the defendants filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit includes both a federal due process claim and a state-law claim.

In the complaint — Cooper v. City of Indianapolis, et al 1:22-cv-00917 — Cooper was critical of IMPD’s response to the protests in downtown Indianapolis on May 29-30, 2020.

“The crowd size, IMPD’s lack of training and preparation in dealing with peaceful First Amendment protests, as well as the fact the crowd was protesting police themselves, contributed to the mayhem and air of lawlessness that ensued over the weekend,” her complaint said.

Cooper also alleged that IMPD’s failure “to properly disperse the violent crowd and follow up with patrols throughout the residential downtown neighborhoods were a proximate cause of the wrongful death of Mr. Beaty.”

But Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt disagreed, writing in her order that Cooper’s complaint “is devoid of facts that any defendant acted to create or enhance a danger Beaty otherwise would not have faced. Unfortunately, while acting as a ‘good Samaritan,’ the danger for Beaty was created by Beaty and not by the Defendants.”

Pratt also noted that Cooper’s complaint did not allege that either Beaty or the armed robbers were at the protests, or that the robbers’ actions were “motivated by or prompted by” the defendants.

“Apart from the crime occurring in the same region of the city and around the time the protests ended, there is no factual allegation that supports a finding that the protests and Beaty’s murder are connected — let alone that the crime was somehow caused by the Defendants,” the chief judge wrote.

Pratt dismissed Cooper’s federal claim with prejudice, but she dismissed the state claim without prejudice.

Attorneys for the plaintiff did not respond to a request for comment by Indiana Lawyer deadline. Counsel for the city declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Separately in Marion County criminal court, three men have been charged in connection with Beaty’s death, according to The Associated Press: Marcus Anderson, Alijah Jones and Nakeyah Shields.

All three are scheduled for a jury trial in March, according to online court records.

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