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Community rallies for justice in wake of IMPD shooting of Aaron Bailey

June 30, 2017 | Indianapolis Star | Link to Article

As rain poured on Downtown Indianapolis, Satchuel Cole looked at the dozens of faces — black, brown and white — gathered before her.

Through the speaker of the red bullhorn strapped on her chest, she sighed.

“I am tired,” she said. “I’m tired of the hashtags. I’m tired of having to do this over, and over and over for black people over, and over and over, and it never stops.

“I’m tired.”

Cole, vice president of social justice advocacy group DON’T SLEEP, spoke to a crowd of about 50 under the awning at City Market on Friday afternoon and demanded justice for Aaron Bailey, a 45-year-old unarmed black man killed by Indianapolis Metropolitan police early Thursday morning.

WHAT WE KNOW: The police shooting of Aaron Bailey

Bailey was fatally shot in his car following a traffic stop and brief police chase. Police said he reached down toward the vehicle’s center console as officers approached. Investigators did not find a weapon in the car.

Bailey’s daughter, 26-year-old Erica Bailey, thanked everyone for the show of support. Speaking after the rally, she also expressed frustration at any mention of her father’s criminal history.

What prompted the traffic stop is unclear. Whether he said anything to the officers is unclear. Whether the officers knew who he was is unclear. What prompted the officers to shoot Aaron Bailey remains unclear.

IndyStar in its Thursday reporting provided a one-paragraph summary of Bailey's record to provide context in the factors that may have played a role in the traffic stop, flight from police and shooting.

Bailey's record includes convictions on charges of resisting law enforcement and battery, and he had a pending Feb. 2 charge of theft.

Erica Bailey speaks to the crowd about her father, Aaron, at the Justice for Aaron Bailey rally at City Market on Friday, June 30, 2017. (Photo: Sarah Stier/IndyStar)

“My dad was just really outgoing,” Erica Bailey said after the rally. “I don’t care about his past. He was a good person. He loved his kids and he loved his family.”

Above all, the family is facing the unknown.

“I think we all just want to know why,” Aaron Bailey’s stepdaughter, 29-year-old Angela Bailey, said after the rally. “Why it had to happen like that. Because it was a different route they could have took.”

And with so much still unknown, Cole said DON’T SLEEP is looking for answers.

Why did the officers stop him? Why did they choose to shoot?

“We are tired of expired license plates being death sentences,” Cole said to the crowd. “We are tired of not having a turn signal being a death sentence.”

 

They want transparency. They want answers. They want an indictment and charges and a special prosecutor, Cole said. They don’t have faith that Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry will get the results they want. 

"It is early in the investigation, and there is much information to still be gathered and analyzed," Curry said in a Friday statement. "I caution against making premature conclusions. As we have done in more than sixty prior instances, if we determine that there has been criminal conduct by a police officer we will proceed accordingly."

'TRAGEDY': Indianapolis police chief discusses fatal shooting of unarmed motorist

Mayor Joe Hogsett and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach have stressed they will conduct a transparent investigation.

IMPD and the prosecutor’s office are conducting separate investigations of the incident. Curry’s office is looking into whether a crime was committed, while IMPD is working to determine if officers followed departmental rules and regulations.

Addressing the crowd, Cole expressed frustration at the system, that those who pulled the trigger have not been jailed.

“If this was anyone other than an officer that had done this, they would have already been arrested,” Cole said. “They would not be on paid administrative leave, they would not be lawyered up without having to answer any questions.”

Officers Michal Dinnsen and Carlton Howard were placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident. Dinnsen is white; Howard is biracial. Neither has a record of disciplinary action, according to departmental records.

IMPD vehicles are not typically equipped with dashcams, nor do officers wear body cameras.

Shiwand Ward, 26, was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the shooting. Police say she is the only other witness to the incident.

IMPD Sgt. Kendale Adams on Friday told IndyStar that the police department will continue to work with community organizations throughout the investigation.

“We look forward to progressive talks and actionable steps forward,” he said. “We are also equally encouraged by the opportunity to further educate people of the forward progress IMPD has already made.”

Steve Carlsen, dean and rector at Christ Church Cathedral and member of the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, closed Friday’s rally. He said Bailey had participated in Sunday morning breakfasts at the church for months. He said Bailey would wake up at 5:30 a.m. three days a week to run with Back on My Feet, an organization that connects people experiencing homelessness with educational, housing and employment resources.

Earlier this month, Bailey volunteered at the church’s annual Strawberry Festival, raising money to help others by serving strawberry shortcakes. In those moments, what may have happened in Bailey’s past wasn’t so important, Carlsen said.

 

Aaron Bailey, center, volunteers at the 2017 Christ

Aaron Bailey, center, volunteers at the 2017 Christ Church Cathedral Women's Strawberry Festival. Bailey was fatally shot by two Indianapolis police officers early June 29, 2017, following a traffic stop and short car chase. A later search of the car revealed he was unarmed. (Photo: Provided by David Jose)

“That’s the Aaron Bailey that we knew at Christ Church, that’s the Aaron Bailey that you know, and that’s the Aaron Bailey that God knows,” Carlsen said.

As the rain continued to pour, Carlsen closed the rally with a prayer.

“Our city is in need,” he said. “We are in need of justice — that it will roll down, that it will thunder, that it will pour down upon our community.”

Carlsen prayed for peace. He prayed for wisdom and strength and courage, not just for community members, but for police officers and elected officials and investigators.

“Help us to be the city that You want us to be.”