Michael Taylor’s death in the back of a police cruiser in 1987 raised questions, many which remain unanswered to this day. It also opened dialogues on race, community relationships, the legal system and policing — and helped usher in change. WRTV is revisiting this chapter in Indianapolis history, not in an effort to open old wounds, but to learn from the circumstances surrounding Taylor’s death and recognize the changes his death led us to as a community.
On September 24, 1987, 16-year-old Michael Taylor was fatally shot in the head while in the back of an Indianapolis Police car. His hands were cuffed behind his back. Multiple agencies ruled the shooting a suicide. However, nearly a decade later, a jury found that Michael Taylor did not take his own life and awarded Taylor's family a multi-million dollar settlement.
This is a timeline of the events we know and WRTV's coverage of the case.
- 4:00 p.m. Indianapolis Police are notified of an attempted car theft near Shelby and Morris streets
- 4:24 p.m. IPD Officer Edwin Michael Aurs apprehends 16-year-old Michael Taylor near Louisiana and East streets
- IPD Officer Charles Penniston arrives to transport Taylor to Juvenile Detention Center at 25th and Keystone
- Officers Aurs, Penniston, and Stephen Fogleman, search Taylor before placing him inside Penniston's car with his hands handcuffed behind his back
- 5:04 p.m. Officer Charles Penniston radioes dispatch to report a person shot outside the Juvenile Detention Center
- Michael Taylor dies at Wishard Memorial Hospital
- Rev. Lucious Newsom of the Spiritual Church of God and Christ begins picketing outside police headquarters demanding answers into Taylor's death. Watch Sy Jenkins' report here
- IPD releases a video of police recruits demonstrating how it would be possible for Taylor to conceal a gun in his shoe, remove it, and shoot himself in the head all while handcuffed. Watch Jack Rinehart's report here
- Leaders of the Black community shared their thoughts on the police briefing with WRTV reporter Sy Jenkins. Watch his report here
- Black leaders hold a community meeting at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, demanding answers and accountability. Donations are collected to pay for an independent investigation. Watch WRTV reporter David Klugh's report here
- Kelly Carson and Amos Brown of WTLC air hourly announcements promoting a rally for Taylor while also calling for the creation of a civilian review board.
- Dr. Robert Kirchner, chief Medical Examiner of Cook County, IL is brought in as an independent forensic pathologist
- Black leaders meet with Mayor Hudnut. The media, including WRTV reporter Sy Jenkins, is asked to leave after a photo op
- Watch Jenkins' report here
- Leaders and members of the Black community demand "truth and justice" outside Indianapolis Police Department headquarters. Watch WRTV reporter Marilyn Lis' report here
- Bradley L. Williams, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, and special FBI agent William C. Ervin, hold a joint press conference discussing the Taylor investigation. Watch here
- IPD holds nearly two hour update on the Taylor shooting.
- IPD Police Chief Paul Annee says Taylor's gunshot wound was self-infliced.
- WRTV reporters Sy Jenkins, David Klugh, Jack Rinehart, and Derrik Thomas cover the unprecedented briefing. Watch their reports here
- WRTV reporters Derrik Thomas, Greg Todd and Jack Rinehart get reaction to the IPD finding from around the city. Watch their reports here
- Ministers call for the redacted names of witnesses to be released by police. Watch Sy Jenkins' report here
- Black leaders call for changes to the police merit board and citizen complaint office.
- Former deputy chief of IPD Spurgeon Davenport begins his work as an independent investigator hired by supporters of Michael Taylor. Watch Sy Jenkins' report here
- Mayor Hudnut voices concerns about the creation of a civilian review board with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. Watch Sy Jenkins' report here
- Marion County Coroner Dennis Nicholas begins a public inquest into the shooting. IPD Officers Aurs, Fogleman, and Penniston testify under the order of a subpoena. Watch WRTV reports on the inquest here
- Independent investigator Spurgeon Davenport concludes Taylor shot himself. Watch Jack Rinehart's report here
- Marion County coroner Dr. Dennis Nicholas rules Taylor's death a suicide. Watch WRTV reports here
- Boycott of Richard's Market Basket
- Michael Taylor shooting a hot topic at Indiana Black Expo
- FBI ends its investigation into the shooting death of Michael Taylor
- August 31
- Nancy Taylor, Michael's mother, files lawsuit against City of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Police Department, IPD officers Stephen Fogleman, Charles Penniston, Thomas Wiseman and two unnamed parties listed as John and Richard Doe
- July 28
- Case moved to Hancock County
- May 18
- Stephen Fogleman dies at the age of 50
- February 12
- Civil trial begins in Hancock county
- All-white jury consisting of five women and one man is seated
- February 13
- Attorney John Moss tells jury about a witness who will testify that he saw an unnamed officer shoot Michael Taylor
- February 14
- Officer Tom Wiseman is the first IPD officer to testify. Though not a defendant in the suit, Wiseman was on scene when Michael Taylor was arrested and took photographs of the boy
- February 22
- Jury hears taped testimony from a prisoner in Florida who claims he witnessed a white IPD officer shoot Michael Taylor
- March 7
- A woman named Kathy Dean testifies about information she was told from a firefighter who said the crime scene was manipulated
- March 20
- Jury deliberations begin
- March 21
- Jury rejects suicide as Taylor's cause of death, awards Taylor family $3.5 million, which was later reduced to $2.6 million.
- March 9
- Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson announces he will not appeal the $2.6 million judgement against the city
- April 17
- The city and the Taylor family reach a financial settlement of $1.9 million
- Under the terms of the agreement, Indianapolis agrees to pay a three hundred thousand dollar tort claim
- The city also agrees to pay $1.6 million on behalf of the two officers named in the suit