ANDERSON — The Madison County prosecutor said his office will seek the death penalty against the man accused of shooting and killing Elwood Police Department officer Noah Shahnavaz.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday morning. He gave a brief statement before allowing family and other law enforcement leaders to speak.
"I'm standing here with the family, appropriate law enforcement leaders and just to let our county know, let our community know, the people of this region know, that we're moving forward with the death penalty," Cummings said. "That's the end of the statement we have."
Cummings said his office met with the family, the Indiana death penalty committee, other prosecutors in Indiana and the Indiana Attorney General's Office.
"The death sentence is the law in the state of Indiana," Cummings said. "And if it's going to be pursued, this is the kind of case where it needs to be pursued. The family understands that. We had those discussions and our responsibility is - we all have our own responsibility in this process - mine is to pursue the death penalty in an appropriate case. And this is that case."
Matt Shahnavaz, Noah's father, spoke publicly for the first time since Noah's death during the press conference. He did not address the prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty.
"My family misses Noah," he said. "More than words can express. We want everyone to remember Noah."
He brought Noah's sunglasses and spoke about how he always had them nearby because his "beautiful blue eyes" were "super sensitive to sunlight."
"If you want a small, simple way that you can remember Noah, wear your sunglasses on the back of your head," he said. "Noah style."
Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter spoke about the recent attacks on law enforcement officers in the state.
Less than a month after Shahnavaz was shot and killed, Richmond Police Department Officer Seara Burton was critically injured after she was shot during a traffic stop.
"I don't understand where we've lost the value of human life," Carter said. "I don't understand where that's happened. And we can talk about all the different issues associated with the way in which we exist today, whether it be socio-economically, whether it be violence in a particular neighborhood, it could be about the lack of hope, the lack of jobs, lack of resources, whatever that might be. But I think everyone understands the only thing that lasts forever is dying. And we've lost that ability to rationalize that."
You can watch the full press conference below.
Carl Roy Webb Boards II, 42, who is accused of killing Shahnavaz, is charged with murder and possession of a firearm as a serious violent felon and two counts of resisting law enforcement.
Shahnavaz, 24, was shot and killed on July 31 during a traffic stop near State Road 37 and County Road 1100 North in Madison County.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the man accused of killing him fired more than 35 rounds at Shahnavaz.
Shahnavaz is a 2016 graduate of Fishers High School and served in the U.S. Army for five years. He joined the Elwood Police Department in August 2021.
Boards remains in the Hamilton County Jail and is scheduled to be back in a Madison County court on Sept. 30.
Other death penalty cases in Indiana
According to the Indiana Department of Correction, there are eight inmates on death row. The last execution was of Matthew Wrinkles on Dec. 11, 2009.
Since 2000, 13 people have been executed in the state, according to Indiana Department of Correction.
Wrinkles, according to past WRTV reports, was convicted of killing his estranged wife and two of her relatives in Evansville in 1994.
One of the eight men on Indiana’s death row, Benjamin Ritchie, was convicted in 2002 of the murder of a Beech Grove Police Department Officer. WRTV archives detail Ritchie shot Officer William Toney after he was chased in a van he stole in September 2000.
Elliahs Dorsey, who is accused of fatally shooting Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Breann Leath in April 2020 is also facing the death penalty.
His case has been delayed several times and a pre-trial conference is scheduled for Sept. 16, according to the Marion Superior Court 32. His jury trial is scheduled to start a year later on Sept. 18, 2022.
The man accused of fatally shooting FBI Task Force Officer Greg Ferency in 2021 in Terre Haute won’t face the death penalty. Attorneys for the suspect filed more than a thousand pages of medical records showing he was mentally ill, according to reporting from The Associated Press. If convicted, he would face up to life in prison.
Jason Dane Brown, who was recently sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing Southport Police Department Lt. Aaron Allan in 2017, was facing the death penalty. But because Brown waived his right to a jury trial, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears agreed to dismiss the death penalty charge.
The cost of death penalty cases in Indiana
Because death penalty cases can take a long time, the costs keep adding up.
In 2018, Indiana's Legislative Services Agency found that the average cost of a death penalty case in Indiana was $281,000, compared to $56,000 when prosecutors sought life without parole, the second most serious punishment in Indiana.
But money can't be the only thing prosecutors weigh when they decide to seek a death penalty, said Jeremy Mull, the Clark County prosecutor and chairman of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council's capital litigation committee.
These defendants are typically "the worst of the worst," he said. They have killed cops, children or multiple people. They've raped or tortured victims.
Sometimes, Mull said, justice demands the ultimate punishment.
"The point to not be lost in the discussion is that it's worth the cost to get justice for victims of these very heinous offenses," said Mull, who advises Indiana prosecutors when they consider filing capital cases.
"Many people believe, including the legislature, that the only appropriate penalty for some of those crimes is to forfeit the life of the murderer."
WRTV Digital Reporter Vic Ryckaert contributed previous reporting to this story.