Listen Live

INDIANAPOLIS — The man who died while in the custody of Indianapolis Metro Police on Monday was described as a “world-class musician” by friends and colleagues.

Herman Whitfield III is the name of the man.

“I think it was ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ with Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He might have been 17 and just blew everyone away,” said Joshua Thompson, a fellow piano player who came up with Whitfield, told WISH-TV. “It was just a joy to watch him. So, to be able to follow him throughout life as we would get older, it was always a pride thing and fun thing, like ‘I know him’.”

Police said they were called to Whitfield’s home by his father Monday night. They said he was having some kind of psychosis and at one point came at one of the responding officers. That officer used his taser twice to subdue Whitfield and they handcuffed him.

EMTs who arrived afterward tried to roll Whitfield over but he was not responsive and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Many, including Thompson, are calling for IMPD to be more careful in how they deal with situations with people who are mentally ill.

“Mental health shouldn’t be criminal, and reaching out for help shouldn’t be fatal,” Thompson said. “This is an opportunity where crisis intervention training for law enforcement is taken seriously, is done more frequently, is done in tandem with mental health professionals on the job, on the scene.”

IMPD does have a crisis intervention team for situations with someone who might be mentally ill. It’s called MCAT, but the team does not operate 24/7. MCAT was not among those who were called to respond to the situation with Whitfield.

Metro Police are conducting an administrative investigation into the incident. All officers involved are not on leave while that investigation takes place. All of those officers also had body cameras and the footage is being reviewed.