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A photo of Herman Whitfield playing the piano

Source: (PHOTO: WISH-TV)

INDIANAPOLIS–Two IMPD officers have been indicted in the April 2022 death of Herman Whitfield III.

Patrol officers Steven Sanchez and Adam Ahmad, both two-year officers at the time of Whitfield’s death, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, and battery. In total, five charges have been filed against Ahmad and six against Sanchez.

On April 25, 2022, Whitfield’s parents called 911 because they said their son was having a “mental health crisis.” Whitfield was tased and restrained.

While he was on the floor, officers handcuffed him. He was heard in body camera footage saying, “I can’t breathe,” several times. He died at a hospital.

After an autopsy, the coroner ruled Whitfield’s death a homicide caused by cardiopulmonary arrest in the setting of police subduing him with a prone restraint just after he was tased. The report lists morbid obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease as contributing conditions.

In June 2022, IMPD released edited body camera footage from the incident; a judge later ordered the city to release the full, unedited footage. Whitfield’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the case.

“A grand jury consists of 6 grand jurors and 1 alternate who reside in Marion County and are impaneled by the Marion County Superior Court. Individuals summoned for possible service on the grand jury are drawn from the same sources and called in the same manner as citizens summoned for regular jury duty. Grand jurors must arrive at a majority decision to issue an indictment or no-bill,” said Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears.

The Whitfield family released a statement just before noon Thursday. The statement says the following: 

The family of Herman Whitfield, III, thanks the Marion County Prosecutor and members of the Grand Jury for indicting two of the officers who were responsible for Herman Whitfield III’s death. The family is grateful that the criminal process will proceed and hope that justice for their son will prevail. 

The family also supports the calls from concerned members of the public for the U.S. Department of Justice to also investigate their son’s death and examine how the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department interacts with minority communities and responds to mental health

crisis. The family continues to press the federal civil case against the City of Indianapolis and all six officers involved in Herman’s death. 

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department also issued a statement about the indictments:

Earlier today, Chief Randal Taylor learned the grand jury decision regarding the death of Herman Whitfield III. Chief Taylor respects the grand jury process. 

As with anyone under indictment, the officers should be considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The officers involved, including those indicted, remain on paid administrative duty status while the internal process continues. 

Mr. Whitfield’s death was a tragedy for all involved, and our thoughts continue to be with those impacted by his loss. 

John Kautzman and Edward Merchant are the attorneys for Ahmad & Sanchez. They released the following statement:

Officers Ahmad and Sanchez have no previous criminal or disciplinary history. The merit of these allegations will ultimately be determined through due process in a court of law and we ask the public to allow that process to play out. 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.