The family of Herman Whitfield III said they are “thankful” after two of the six police officers involved in his death were charged Thursday.
“I just want to be thankful to the grand jury for their decision,” Herman Whitfield Jr., Whitfield’s father, said during a press conference Thursday evening. “The grand jury made the decision — the community made the decision — so I’ll have to accept the citizens and community of this beautiful city and their decision.”
A Marion County grand jury on Thursday indicted Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers Adam Ahmad and Steven Sanchez in connection with Herman’s death on April 25, 2022. Ahmad is facing five charges while Sanchez — who allegedly deployed a Taser on Herman — is facing six.
The other four officers involved in the incident leading to Herman’s death will not be charged, according to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
All six officers remain on paid administrative duty status while an internal review continues, according to attorneys for Ahmad and Sanchez, John Kautzman and Edward Merchant.
The Whitfield family has maintained that Herman, who was Black, was experiencing a “mental health crisis” on the day of his death, prompting them to call for police assistance. In a federal suit filed last year, they alleged Herman was not acting violently or threatening the police officers who responded to his parents’ call.
A critical incident video stated that Whitfield had been throwing things and ran at an officer. Subsequently released bodycam footage showed Whitfield was unarmed, naked and trying to get away from police before he was tased by Sanchez. In the footage, Whitfield is heard saying he couldn’t breathe.
After he was tased and handcuffed, the federal lawsuit claims Whitfield was left lying on his stomach while officers put their weight on his back for three to four minutes. He eventually lost consciousness and was never revived.
“It’s almost like we were being gaslighted to believe that what was said, what was done to our son was proper and lawful and legal and justified and that our son deserved to die,” Gladys Whitfield, Herman’s mother, said Thursday. “… The defendants still have not been transparent, even though they promised transparency, and all they have delivered is bleakness and darkness and deception. So hopefully the Department of Justice will come in and do a review.”
Rich Waples, an attorney representing the family, added that the lawsuit isn’t just against the police officers involved, but the city of Indianapolis, as well.
“We think the Department of Justice ought to come in and investigate the city and its practices and how they treat minorities in this community and how they respond to mental health incidents in this community,” Waples said. “And that’s what that case is about.”
As far as the healing process goes, Herman Jr. said he’s not sure if that process has started.
“The healing is slower, if ever. As far as I’m concerned there is no healing, ‘cause (Herman III) will always be with me,” Herman Jr. said. “He was my son, her son, our son, and he shall always live forever in us, and his legacy should also always live forever within us, and I don’t know if the healing even started yet or if it will ever end. As we go on, we hope for justice.”
Justice4Herman3rd campaign organizer Dea Lott urged the community to support Whitfield’s family.
She added, “The one thing that I will say about that is that an indictment is charges — they are not convictions.”
The campaign will be hosting an event, “In Harmony for Justice,” at 1 p.m. April 22 at Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis.
For their part, the attorneys for Ahmad and Sanchez said in a statement Thursday, “The officers look forward to a full and fair opportunity to defend themselves in court and establish that they did not act illegally or with any type of criminal intent. We also ask that you continue to support all of the officers of IMPD as they endeavor to protect our City.”
The cases filed this week in Marion Superior Court 29 are State of Indiana v. Steven Sanchez, 49D29-2304-F5-010443, and State of Indiana v. Adam Ahmad, 49D29-2304-F5-010447.