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Suspect charged with murder in downtown shooting that killed Dutch soldier, wounded 2 others

A 22-year-old is being held for murder in the soldier's shooting death downtown last Saturday.

INDIANAPOLIS — Police say they arrested a suspect they believe to have been responsible for shooting three Dutch soldiers, killing one, downtown last Saturday.

Tuesday evening, IMPD said officers arrested 22-year-old Shamar Duncan for murder. The Marion County Prosecutor's Office has filed charges against Duncan, with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of disorderly conduct.

"I hope no one interprets this as the end of the investigation or that no additional charges will be filed or against additional individuals in the future," Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said.

IMPD said one of the other two soldiers who were shot has already returned to the Netherlands, and the other soldier is expected to return Thursday.

Duncan's initial hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 1 at 1 p.m.

Credit: IMPD
Shamar Duncan, 22, has been charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder and disorderly conduct.

The shooting happened downtown around 3:30 a.m. near the Hampton Inn at Meridian and Maryland streets. 

The Dutch Ministry of Defense confirmed the three men were Dutch military commandos who were in Indiana to take part in a training exercise and were staying at the hotel. 

In a statement posted early Monday morning, the ministry said one of the commandos, who was in critical condition following the shooting, died Sunday night. The Marion County Coroner's Office identified the deceased as 26-year-old Simmie Poetsema. An autopsy found he had been shot in the back of the head.

Credit: Dutch Defense Ministry
A 26-year-old member of the Dutch Commando Corps, identified by U.S. authorities as Simmie Poetsema, died after being shot in Indianapolis on Aug. 27.

Around 2:45 a.m. ET Monday, the ministry posted its statement on Twitter announcing the death of one of the commandos, stating that the condition of the other two remains unchanged. They were described as awake and communicative.

The Dutch soldiers were off-duty Saturday morning when the shooting occurred. The Indiana National Guard confirms the soldiers were training at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Southern Indiana.

According to court documents, the soldiers were walking back from a bar when they came across three men. The soldiers told investigators that the men "were just looking for a fight." The soldiers claim they tried to diffuse the situation, but a fight broke out. 

A witness told officers the men seemed very intoxicated when they passed him and crossed the street where the soldiers were walking. The witness said it was clear the men "were looking for trouble." The witness said one of the men shoved one of the soldiers and a fight broke out. The witness said one of the soldiers knocked out one of the men. The witness then said he then heard one of the men say, "I'm going to go get a strap." During that time, the witness said the soldiers were able to get away and move toward the Hampton Inn entrance. He then heard the shots, and the truck took off.

Police were able to find video of the truck during the shooting using city cameras. They were then able to track the truck as it left downtown Indianapolis. Police were also able to get video of the fight from a witness that helped them get a better description of the suspects' truck.

That description was entered into the FLOCK camera system, which came back with a match and a license plate number. Police used that to locate the truck and pull the driver over.

“We are thankful to the numerous witnesses who stepped up and provided our investigators with vital information that led to the quick arrest of the suspect,” said IMPD Chief Randal Taylor.

According to court documents, the driver told police that he had been with Duncan and another man the night of the shooting. He allegedly told investigators that they were involved in a fight and after the fight, Duncan shot at some of the people they had been fighting.

A search of the truck found bullets with a stamping that matched the shell casings found at the scene of the shooting.

During an interview with Duncan's girlfriend, she allegedly told them that Duncan told her a group of soldiers jumped them and that he thought one of the soldiers had a gun, so he got his gun and defended himself. She told police Duncan did not say whether he fired his gun. When she asked him if he fired shots, she said he wouldn't say. 

Police interview with Duncan

Police were able to find and take Duncan into custody on Aug. 30. 

During an interview with police, he said he was intoxicated the night of the shooting and admitted getting into an altercation.

Duncan told police a lady said something "crazy" to them, but he said it was not worth it and to keep walking. He then said he and his friends noticed a group of men following them. Duncan allegedly said that they asked the men if they were following them and a fight broke out. Duncan claimed he saw a gun and everyone scattered.

Duncan allegedly told investigators they went back to their truck, but police say he declined to say what happened next.

Response to deadly shooting

Since Saturday, the shooting has made international headlines.

On Tuesday, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren expressed concern at gun violence in the United States in the aftermath of their soldiers being shot in Indianapolis.

"We do many trainings of our servicemen in the United States, and we really don’t expect this to happen. So it’s very, very concerning for us.” Ollongren told The Associated Press at a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Prague.

Ollongren declined to comment on the shooting while investigations continue. She said there is “good contact” between Dutch military police and authorities in Indianapolis.

“We have read things in the media, we have heard what the mayor said but we feel it’s very important to have a real thorough investigation. So we’re waiting for that until we comment on what actually happened,” she said.

Ollongren said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin contacted her Monday “to express his regrets and his condolences.”

IMPD said it has been in communication with agencies in the United States and the Netherlands to coordinate family members coming to Indianapolis and returning the victims to the Netherlands. Poetsema's remains and the two wounded soldiers are expected to return to the Netherlands this week.

In addition, three detectives from the Netherlands traveled to Indianapolis to gather information themselves.   

On Monday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said he was aware of the investigation, but has not been in contact with Dutch authorities.

Despite this high-profile incident, Hogsett said the city’s crime reduction efforts are working. He cited a 17% decrease in homicides recently.

“That’s what I want the people of Indianapolis to know. We are making progress,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate aspect over the weekend but one we are trying our best to avoid.”

Hogsett believes the issue is that people don’t know how to resolve their conflicts without guns.

“The tragedy is people got into a dispute and they ultimately resolve that dispute by pulling out a gun and shooting it at other people, and that’s precisely what we are trying to focus on in our crime reduction efforts,” he said.

Anyone with information about the shooting should contact IMPD Detective Michael Wright at 317-327-3475 or by email at michael.wright@indy.gov. Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-TIPS (8477).

That shooting was one of three early Saturday in Indianapolis that sent five victims to area hospitals.

Why train in Indiana?

Foreign soldiers often go to United States military facilities that replicate the “unpredictable realism” of battlefield situations within an environment that a soldier would encounter.

At Muscatatuck — where the three Dutch Commando Corps members involved in the shooting were training — “everything in the city and surrounding property, including the people, is ‘in play,'" its website says.

It's a 1,000-acre (405-hectare) complex that trumpets hyper-focused training across land, air, water, technology and space.

The number of international soldiers training at the camp varies each year, Indiana National Guard spokesperson Jeff Lowry said in a statement. Soldiers’ individual training depends on unit needs, and in this case, the Dutch Ministry of Defense provided that direction, Lowry said.

“The training they will do will revolve around urban operations which could include a variety of training events from search and rescue to evade and capture,” Lowry said.

Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a retired Marine colonel, said Muscatatuck is "essentially a small city” for combat training. U.S. allies with troops from countries without the capacity for such facilities can learn in an environment that replicates the one they could fight in, he said.

“Europeans have things like that,” he said, but U.S. facilities are “more elaborate, in part because we have more money, and probably because we have more space, and larger forces.”

What exactly is at Muscatatuck?

The Muscatatuck complex had been a state-operated center for people with developmental disabilities since the 1920s, with more than 2,000 residents at one point before it was closed by the state. The Indiana National Guard then took over the site in 2005.

Military officials saw the campus of more than 60 buildings, nine miles of roads and more than a mile of tunnels — in a rural setting isolated from nearby communities — as an ideal place to replicate an urban territory for military training, including chemical or biological attacks.

“Our primary intent is to simulate real-world, urban scenarios through real and virtual training for first responders involved in counterterrorism operations,” then-Indiana Guard Adjutant General Martin Umbarger said in announcing the creation of the Muscatatuck center in 2004.

The Indiana National Guard said in a statement that the center is used for training by the Department of Defense “as well as other allies.”

Those materials detail a training environment that mimics a city — with a five-story hospital, an oil refinery, a coal-fired steam plant, among many other features — as well as bits of infrastructure that might be found in a war zone, such as downed aircraft, searchable “rubble buildings,” a caved-in parking garage and a collapsed rail trestle.

Why were the soldiers away from the base?

The Muscatatuck center is part of a larger installation called Atterbury-Muscatatuck that covers 36,000 acres, including some lodging options, where troops usually stay for seven to 14 days, Lowry said. It’s not clear whether the Dutch soldiers had been staying on the installation during any of their training.

Other weekend shootings

Man shot outside home on Montcalm Street

Just after 1:25 a.m., Northwest District officers were called to the Riverside neighborhood on Montcalm Street just north of 16th Street on a report of a person shot. 

They found a man wounded outside his residence. Police said he was "awake and breathing" when taken to the hospital.

Police had no suspect information to share.

Oxford Street shooting sends male to hospital

Within minutes of the Montcalm shooting, Southeast District police were called to a neighborhood near Bethel Park on another reported shooting.

They found a male victim who was shot and injured on South Oxford Street near the intersection of Raymond Street and Churchman Avenue.

He was also awake and breathing when taken to the hospital. 

Detectives were checking with potential witnesses about that incident.

Saturday afternoon shooting

Later in the day, IMPD said another person had been shot, this time on the near northwest side of the city. The shooting happened in the 3600 block of Middlefield Drive at around 1 p.m. 

The man shot at this location was in stable condition, police said. 

IMPD detained a suspect at the scene. That suspect was interviewed and released pending a review of the case by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, IMPD said.  


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