INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Fraternal of Police said the Marion County Prosecutor's Office failed to do its job in taking a red flag issue to the courts in 2020.
The FOP said officers did everything they needed to and that the prosecutor's office failed to use that evidence to keep the FedEx mass shooting suspect from purchasing guns later that year. Those weapons were then used to kill eight people on April 15, 2021.
"The process was sidestepped, so today we ask for answers and accountability," said Rick Snyder, president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #86. "Where was his courage to apply the law? File the paperwork."
Snyder is referring to the Marion County Prosecutor's Office never filing with the court to apply the red flag law to the FedEx suspect after officers removed a shotgun from him in March of 2020 after a call the suspect might attempt "suicide by cop." Police intervened, took the 19-year-old to the hospital and seized a shotgun he had purchased within 24 hours of that 2020 incident. That weapon was never returned to him.
The FOP said IMPD officers have submitted 45 cases in 2021 for red flag law consideration and the prosecutor has only made eight filings.
"The system didn't fail, instead prosecutor Mears didn't give the system a chance to work," Snyder said.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears pointed to loopholes in Indiana's red flag law earlier in the week, claiming that it prevented the office from getting the information needed to determine the FedEx mass shooting suspect was dangerous and keep him from buying guns.
“Could something have been done to possibly interrupt the chain of events that lead to this outcome, and we now know an opportunity did exist. Therefore, we want to make clear a loophole did not fork this opportunity, instead, the process was sidestepped,” said Snyder.
Indiana's red flag law allows the seizure and retention of firearms from dangerous and mentally ill persons.
Seizures can be made with or without a warrant, depending on probable cause. If it is with a warrant, the officer has to explain why the person is dangerous and needs a weapon taken away. If approved, it allows for the following:
- Seizure of the firearms
- Law enforcement retention of the firearms
- Suspension of the individual’s license to carry handgun, if he or she has one; and
- Prohibition of the individual from renting, receiving transfer of, owning, or possessing firearms.
If it is without a warrant, there needs later court approval and the officer needs to file an affidavit with the court.
- The affidavit must state the basis for the belief the person is dangerous.
- Must include information on quantity and type of firearms seized.
"The prosecutor's office is who starts that, and they can submit that to the courts," said IMPD Deputy Chief Craig McCartt, who is in charge of criminal investigations. "In this particular case, it was not submitted to the courts, and I don't know exactly how they assess the cases and decide which ones go to court and which ones don't. But in this particular case, it did not go...it did not get presented to the courts, so therefore, there was no red flag in the system."
The prosecutor's office said that because the family said it would not seek the return of the gun, that provision was not taken.
The prosecutor's office then looked to see if the suspect could be deemed a dangerous person. The office said it was a single incident, the individual was in the hospital for only a matter of hours before being released and that no medicine was prescribed.
Due to those factors, the prosecutor's office said it did not move forward with the red flag law to deem the suspect as dangerous.
"What we're required to document and demonstrate is that we needed to establish that propensity [for violence] and this individual was taken and treated by medical professionals, and he was cut loose. They didn't do so much as prescribe him any additional medication after he walked out of there...or any medication," Mears said. "So we're left with a situation where, we have one incident, he was treated by mental health professionals, they didn't civilly commit him, they didn't prescribe him any additional medication and he was cut loose. And so for us, the risk is, if we move forward with that proceeding and we lose, guess what happens? That firearm goes right back to that person."
If it had been filed and the court finds probable cause, within 14 days of the seizure, the court must hold a hearing. The hearing would then determine whether the firearms will be seized or retained and the prosecutor's office represents the state at this hearing.
"We would have liked the opportunity to subpoena the medical records," Mears said. "Get a search warrant for his medical records and make that determination. But we're dealing with a 14-day time limit, and we didn't have the time to do that."
Prosecutor Mears said that because the state only has 14 days to move forward with a court filing, it limits their access to medical records and mental health records, especially when in Indiana entities have 30 days to respond to a subpoena for records. Mears said that severely limits what they are able to do.
When asked about the red flag law working at keeping guns away from dangerous individuals, Mears said, "I think this case shows the limitations."
"If you made the effort and it didn't work, at least you made the effort," Snyder said in response.
When asked about Snyder's comments, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office responded to 13News saying, "Prosecutor Mears addressed most of his comments directly in the opening statement of Monday’s press conference."
“We’ve had the law on our book for 22 years now and the same deadline, 14 days, and the prosecutors have met that burden repeatedly thousands of times over the last 22 years so maybe this prosecutor is unaccustomed on how to do it, but I can tell you that people do it in Connecticut with no problems,” said Mike Lawlor, University of New Haven.
“My personal viewpoint is I don't think they work well together whether right now they don't they used to in the past. But I don't think right now they worked well together,” said Mike Laird, Jake's father.