INDIANAPOLIS — The tragic death of Elwood Officer Noah Shahnavaz has touched off a showdown with police officers on one side and the Marion County justice system on the other.
A widening rift pitting the Indianapolis chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police against Marion County's elected judges and prosecutor is coming to a head this week as officers who are part of the state's largest police union hold a confidence vote on the very system they are sworn to uphold.
"Our membership came together, immediately following the death of Noah Shahnavaz where we saw a connection as far away as Elwood back here to our home city, our hometown, where our own system contributed to that situation," said Rick Snyder, president of the Indianapolis chapter of the FOP.
"You have officers that are ashamed of what has occurred here. They're ashamed of the very system they're supposed to be representing."
The justice system, where judges and prosecutors must adhere to professional rules that bar them from commenting publicly on criminal cases, is firing back with the help of the Indianapolis Bar Association, which has called Snyder's remarks "inaccurate," "dangerous" and "reckless."
"Mr. Snyder’s attempt to draw a line between Officer Shahnavaz’s tragic death and the defendant’s Marion County conviction is not only inaccurate, it is dangerous," the IndyBar said in a three-page rebuttal issued on Aug. 12.
"It would lead an uninformed person to conclude that the Court in this matter somehow exhibited leniency that resulted in the death of a law enforcement officer. Our community does not benefit from such reckless rhetoric."
At issue is a 2006 arrest involving Carl Roy Webb Boards II, 42, the man accused of killing Shahnavaz on July 31.
Boards, 26 at the time, was charged with attempted murder and other crimes after he shot at officers during a police chase. A jury in 2007 found Boards not guilty of attempted murder but convicted him of the lesser charge of criminal recklessness along with other crimes. The most serious was a charge for illegally possessing a gun as a violent felon.
Boards faced a maximum sentence of 33.5 years in the case. Marion Superior Court Judge Mark Stoner sentenced Boards to 25 years in prison, records show.
Under Indiana law at the time, defendants could cut their sentences in half if they exhibited good behavior in prison. The current law allows prisoners to earn 25% credit for good behavior.
Snyder criticized the judge for failing to issue a maximum sentence. He criticized the entire justice system for failing to find a way to keep a dangerous person in prison for more time than the more than 12 years Boards ultimately served in the case.
The problems, Snyder said, go beyond one judge and a single case. Snyder pointed to other recent cases where defendants have been released from jail only to commit other violent acts against Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers.
- Mylik Hill was freed from jail in January on a $500 bond after a misspelling of his first name failed to show jail officials that he was on probation. In February, prosecutors say Hill shot Officer Thomas Mangan in the neck. Mangan is still recovering and it's unclear if he'll ever speak, breathe or swallow normally again. Prosecutors charged Hill with attempted murder and other crimes.
- Deonta Williams was on GPS monitoring while he awaiting trial on a felony burglary charge when prosecutors say he a made a fake 911 call to lure two IMPD officers into an ambush before stabbing them both. One officer suffered a lacerated jugular vein; the other suffered a chest wound. Williams was charged with attempted murder and other crimes.
"There's more than enough beyond this (Shahnavaz's death) to hold a confidence vote on the system," Snyder said. "This was just the straw that broke the camel’s back."
Snyder said the officers represented by the FOP directed leaders to hold the vote of confidence. He said police want the justice system to keep criminals behind bars. The vote total, Snyder said, is expected to be released next week.
"Our criminal justice system has been hijacked by prosecutors and (district attorneys) who are picking and choosing what laws they'll enforce and what laws they won't," Snyder said.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced in 2019 that his office would no longer file criminal charges against people caught possessing small amounts of marijuana. In June, Mears announced he would not file criminal charges against doctors or women accused of violating the state's new abortion ban.
Michael Leffler, Mears' spokesman, declined to comment, saying the office remains focused on their work.
Jim Voyles, a member of the Indianapolis Bar Association committee that crafted the response to Snyder's comments, said Stoner followed the law and did everything he was supposed to do when he sentenced Boards in 2007.
"There's an implication in Snyder's remarks that but for (Judge) Stoner this officer would be alive," Voyles said. "That's just not true."
Voyles said Snyder is unfairly attacking judges and prosecutors for failures in the justice system that go far beyond any single individual's control.
"You can't just attack judges and you can't just attack prosecutors" Voyles said. "It should be a dialogue. If you have a problem with Judge Stoner, sit down and talk to him... Don't make a public statement that (the judge) is not capable of responding to."
Stoner, the judge who sentenced Boards after that 2007 trial, also declined to answer questions about the case, citing the professional rules of conduct that bar judges from publicly discussing cases.
WRTV obtained a transcript of Boards' Sept. 6, 2007, sentencing hearing from the court. In that hearing, Stoner told Boards that the jury's verdict clearing him of attempted murder was "pretty doggone rare."
"There aren’t too many people that are able to fire seven shots at a police officer, hit a car three times, and then walk away with a criminal recklessness conviction," Stoner said. "Pretty doggone rare."
Stoner, during the 2007 hearing, expressed concerns about Boards' prior convictions for crimes involving drugs, guns and violence. The judge also noted that Boards had a history of failing to voluntarily take prescription medicine to treat his mental illness.
"When you mix those things, illegal drugs, your mental illness plus guns," Stoner told Boards in 2007. "Quite frankly, you are lucky you haven’t killed anybody up to this point."
In words that now seem to foreshadow what happened to Officer Shahnavaz in 2022, the judge in 2007 expressed concern and support for the police officer who survived uninjured only because Boards' shots struck the squad car instead of the man.
"I can’t imagine the danger you put our police in," Stoner said. "They risk their lives every day to protect you and your family and your friends and your loved ones as well. ... I’m sure (the officer's) got family and friends that depend on him. You almost ruined all of their lives by your activity here."
More: Everything we know about fallen Officer Noah Shahnavaz | What we know about the man accused of killing Elwood Officer Noah Shahnavaz | Elwood police officer shot, killed; suspect in custody | Suspect in Elwood police officer's death has several prior criminal convictions, records show | Suspect in Elwood cop's shooting fired 36 rounds; officer never unholstered gun, court doc says
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.