An Indianapolis mother says the justice system has failed her family after a judge lowered the bond for a man linked to a shootout at a funeral home that wounded her 4-year-old daughter and four others.
“I know everything has its due process or whatnot,” Brittia Williams said. “I just want justice for my daughter, you know.”
Williams’ daughter, Azaria Glasper, 4, was one of five people injured in a July 31 shooting at Sprowl Funeral & Cremation Care, 1134 W. 30th St.
A 16-year-old girl and three adults were also injured, police said.
Court documents say Dominique Baquet, 28, and another person were arguing in the parking lot when they fired handguns at each other.
Marion County prosecutors charged Baquet with being a serious violent felon in possession of a firearm and unlawfully possessing a handgun within 15 years of a conviction for a felony. Records show he was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery in 2014 and served a six-year prison sentence.
The other person who fired shots has not been arrested or publicly identified by police.
Baquet, according to a probable cause affidavit, was at the funeral with his girlfriend when he was involved in an argument in the parking lot that was captured on the funeral home’s surveillance cameras.
“In the video, Dominique can plainly be seen removing a firearm from his pocket and firing it, after another person in the funeral home parking lot pulls out a firearm and shoots,” Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Detective Justin Gray wrote in the affidavit.
Baquet was arrested on Aug. 10, Marion County Jail records show.
Before the charges were official, bond was initially set at $100,000. If he would have ever made the bond, the initial order called for him to be placed on home detention and GPS monitoring.
On Aug. 20, records show Marion Superior Court Judge Mark Stoner lowered Baquet’s bond to $20,000 and ordered him placed on a GPS monitor. The judge did not extend the hone detention order, records show.
Stoner declined to comment.
However, the $20,000 bond falls in line with the Marion County court system’s bail schedule. The schedule is a set of recommended bail amounts that increase with the level of the offense. The amounts range from posting no cash at all on minor crimes like marijuana possession; to being held without bond for anyone accused of murder.
Possessing a handgun as a serious violent felon is a level 4 felony with a recommended bond amount of $20,000, according to the schedule.
The bail schedule helps the courts set bond in the early stages of a criminal case before a defendant has a chance to appear for an initial hearing.
It's also an effort to bring uniformity and equity to the justice system, said Novella Nedeff, associate professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
“The whole idea of equal protection is that people in similar situations are treated with the same amount of rigor and the same amount of leniency,” Nedeff said.
Judges, she said, have a lot of discretion on how they handle individual cases. Even when the charges are the same, facts of each case are always different.
“Because it is like comparing apples to oranges, there is always considerable wiggle room,” Nedeff said. “The judge has a lot of discretion.”
Home detention is sometimes called house arrest and means a defendant must stay home unless they have permission to leave for work, school, religious services or other court-authorized appointments, chores or errands.
When they are allowed to leave, Nedeff said there is no restriction on where the person can go. The device, she said, doesn't generally track where they are going, only that they've left the house.
A GPS monitor, Nedeff said, tracks a person's every move and can be set up to restrict people from visiting specific places. If they go to a restricted area, the device sends an alert to people monitoring the GPS system, Nedeff said. The monitors then call authorities and may have the person arrested.
"GPS is most often used where the facts suggest some real ongoing animosity or a strong desire by the witnesses that they be assured the defendant is away from them," Nedeff said.
Nedeff reviewed documents in Baquet’s case at WRTV’s request. There are two issues that might have influenced how the judge decided to set bail in this case, she said.
First is that prosecutors did not charge him with assault, attempted murder or any crime related to firing a gun at people in public.
“He is not charged with shooting anybody,” Nedeff said. “It could end up being amended later, but right now he’s charged with illegally possessing a firearm.”
The other issue, she said, is even though innocent people were injured Baquet can reasonably claim he shot in self-defense.
“If somebody pulls a gun and you shoot trying to defend yourself,” Nedeff said. “At the last minute they duck and you hit another person. It’s still self-defense.”
Self-defense is sometimes messy and often controversial, Nedeff said. Whether or not a person was justified in shooting someone, she said, is a question often left for juries to ponder.
This is the latest in a series of cases that have made headlines in recent weeks in which a defendant accused of a violent crime was freed after a Marion County judge lowered the bail.
Marcus Garvin was free on bail and wearing a GPS ankle bracelet when prosecutors say he stabbed his girlfriend to death on July 24. Garvin, charged with battery for allegedly stabbing a man last December, had been released from jail in January after a judge lowered his bond from $30,000 to $1,500.
It's unclear why Garvin's bond was reduced. His $1,500 bond was paid by The Bail Project, records show.
Curtis Walker was charged with two counts of attempted murder and domestic battery with a deadly weapon after he allegedly charged at two IMPD officers while armed with a knife. The officers shot him multiple times.
After two hearings on the bond, Marion Superior Court Judge Jennifer Prinz Harrison found that the jail could not provide proper medical care for Walker. She removed Walker’s bond of $80,000 and set a new cash bail at $2,000, records show.
Walker was suffering a mental break at the time of the incident, his fiancé told WRTV. His loved ones told the court they would take him home to care for him and find him a new doctor to treat his mental health issues.
Marion County has seen 174 homicides so far this year, up from 151 by Aug. 25, 2020. The county is on pace to surpass last year's record of 245 homicides.
It's because of the violence, Novella said, that the public is paying more attention to bond reductions these days.
"I think we are all just sensitive given the extreme amount of gun violence in the last year," Novella said. "But certainly, there has been a lot of pressure on the system to release people given the pandemic. So these releases surely have increased, and accompanied by the uptick of violence in our community, it is attention grabbing."
It is the job of the judges to make these kinds of decisions, she said.
"Judges have always had to take chances regarding who they release," Nedeff said. "It has always been every judge's nightmare that someone they release commits a horrible crime."
For Williams, her top concern is her daughter's health. Azaria came close to death and may suffer lingering effects of this bullet wound for the rest of her life.
"This bullet tore through the front of my baby's head," Williams said. "It dug in, it penetrated and it dug itself out."
Azaria has skull fragments in her brain, Williams said. Doctors are not sure what long-term impact it will have on her daughter. The family is working to find therapists for Azaria.
"It looks to be healing fine, you know," Williams said. "We have noticed slight differences in her personality. Those are going to be things that myself and her father would notice."
Williams said she was very close when Baquet started shooting and people started running for their lives.
"The bullets that were flying everywhere that I saw came from Dominque," Williams said. "I was kind of frozen in time, literally right there in front of him. I don't know how I wasn't hit."
Williams said she could have died; her daughter very nearly died. She said she wants Baquet to be held responsible for what he did.
"Dominique needs to go back and sit down and have to think about all his choices so that the next time he is presented with a situation where he could easily have walked away and stayed away," Williams said. "He needs time to reflect. He needs to be taken into custody."
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.