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Community reacts to death of local musician in IMPD custody

Vigil for Herman Whitfield III
Posted at 11:56 PM, Apr 27, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — Faith in Indiana, a local group with the vision of improving the lives of all Hoosiers, is renewing its demand for a clinician-led emergency mental health crisis response team after an Indianapolis musician died in police custody.

Herman Whitfield III was a 39-year-old concert pianist and award-winning composer. He was experiencing a mental health crisis early Monday morning when his parents called for an ambulance.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers arrived to help de-escalate. Police said Whitfield III was naked, sweating, and bleeding at the mouth.

According to an IMPD statement, an officer deployed an electronic control device, or a taser, twice after Whitfield lunged at them. Whitfield later died.

Georon Evans is a black coalition leader with Faith in Indiana. The group held a vigil for Whitfield at City Market on Wednesday.

"It could be me. It could be the next person. You never know who it could be," Evans said.

Dr. Dorothy Herron also came to the vigil. She wanted to support Whitfield's family, even though she's never met him.

"God bless you. God loves you. The community loves you and we will work to make a difference," Herron said.

On March 8, Faith in Indiana asked Mayor Joe Hogsett to create a robust clinician-led emergency mental health crisis response team that could serve Marion County around the clock. The mayor agreed and plans to have a pilot program ready to launch early next year.

After Whitfield's death in the midst of a mental health crisis, the group says that's not soon enough.

"If only it could have been faster," Evans said. "If only we could have set this up faster. It feels like the same story over and over again. What really gets done? He has his little five minutes of fame, gets his name posted and then in a month he's gone. (Then) we're onto the next victim, then the next victim. We're tired of victims."

Indy 10 BLM also released a statement about Whitfield's death.

It reads, in part, "Herman's family called for an ambulance in a moment of distress and were punished for their concern with the negligible killing of their loved one."

The officers present on the scene are currently on administrative leave while internal affairs investigate.