Two Indianapolis police officers have been indicted by a grand jury in the death of a Black man who died last year after being taken into police custody at his parents' home, prosecutors said Thursday.
The indictment of officers Adam Ahmad and Steven Sanchez comes nearly a year after Herman Whitfield III's death. His family sued the city of Indianapolis and six police officers in June over the 39-year-old pianist’s death.
Sanchez was indicted on two counts of involuntary manslaughter, while Ahmad was indicted on one count, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said in a news release. Both were also indicted on charges of reckless homicide, battery resulting in serious bodily injury and battery resulting in moderate injury — all felony charges — and on a misdemeanor battery charge.
Online court records did not list an attorney for either Ahmad or Sanchez.
Five officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and a recruit trainee were called to the home of Whitfield’s parents on April 25, 2022, while he was in the throes of a mental health episode, The Indianapolis Star reported. During that interaction, police used a stun gun on Whitfield and handcuffed him naked and facedown on the ground, according to the newspaper.
He died shortly after arriving at a hospital. An autopsy determined that he died from heart failure while under law enforcement restraint and ruled the death a homicide, the newspaper reported.
The lawsuit filed by Whitfield's family claims responding officers used a stun gun on him and then “crushed the breath out of an unarmed, non-violent" man. It also alleges that the officers ignored Whitfield’s cries of “I can’t breathe.”
Whitfield, whom officers described as about 6-foot-2 (1.9 meters) and around 280 pounds (127 kilograms), was experiencing a mental health issue and needed an ambulance, responding officers have said.
The officers told investigators that they tried negotiating with Whitfield and using de-escalation tactics for more than 10 minutes before Whitfield moved quickly toward an officer, police said.
“The officer activated the Taser twice and the man continued to resist,” police said in a news release at the time.
Officers handcuffed Whitfield, but medics received no response from him, and they began CPR, police said.