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IMPD Chief: Woman who died after officer-involved incident at church suffered from mental illness

Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 10:04:19-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Police say a woman who died shortly after being taken into police custody earlier this month was suffering from severe mental health issues.

Eleanor Northington, 43, died February 9 at Eskenazi Hospital after she was taken off of life support.

Police say Northington had been involved in a disturbance at a church on Indianapolis’ east side nights before. During a pen and paper meeting with media on Friday, nearly two weeks later, police released details about that incident.

“This was clearly a case of mental health,” Chief Roach said during the meeting.

Police say Northington was attending church with her daughter when she began suffering from some type of mental health issue. After disrupting service on multiple occasions, an off-duty behavioral officer who was attending the church tried to calm her down. When repeated attempts to calm her did not succeed, police were called to assist.

READ | Woman dies after officer-involved incident at church on Indy's east side |

When Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers arrived, Roach said Northington assaulted officers as they tried to restrain her. She was placed in handcuffs and ended up on the ground thrashing about before her breathing became labored. Medics eventually arrived and transported her to the hospital where she was treated until her death on February 9.

Preliminary autopsy results show Northington did not suffer from physical trauma. Her toxicology results are still pending.

Chief Roach said the department wanted to release more information about the incident because of the amount of mis-information that had been floating around following Northington’s death.

He says taser tests confirmed that tasers were not used at the scene and the witness statements about what happened inside the church were unanimous. Northington’s daughter also told police that she does not believe officers did anything wrong during their handling of the situation.

All five officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave until the internal investigation is complete. They will also receive continued CIT training to recognize behavior and mental illness.

Chief Roach says IMPD will continue to develop training and integrate mental illness training throughout the academy to help officers better serve their community.

The IMPD Behavioral Health Unit is also on the forefront of addressing behavioral health issues in the community and OPHS and IMPD recently received a grant to help fund research on their results and identifying solutions to the issues within the community. More information on that grant and the plans for its use will be released at a later date.