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Investigation underway after man dies in IMPD custody, officers identified

Officers were called to a disturbance in the 3700 block of Marrison Place around 3:20 a.m. Monday.

INDIANAPOLIS — An investigation is underway after a person died while in police custody early Monday morning. 

An IMPD spokesperson said officers were called to a disturbance at a residence in the 3700 block of Marrison Place around 3:20 a.m.

When police arrived, a man told officers his son was "having a psychosis" and asked for an ambulance, which was then called to the home.

According to IMPD, 39-year-old Herman Whitfield III was bleeding from the mouth and was moving around the home, naked and sweating. Officers lost sight of him several times. 

IMPD said officers used de-escalation techniques, negotiating with Whitfield until he "moved quickly towards an officer." One of the officers deployed a stun device, but police said Whitfield continued to resist.

Proper IMPD procedure requires officers to give a verbal warning before using a stun gun when possible, then aiming below the chest and heart when pulling the trigger. IMPD originally said one of the stun gun's probes hit Whitfield in the chest. But in a revised released Friday, IMPD said the probe actually hit Whitfield in the abdomen. IMPD said that revised information comes from the autopsy and review of officers' body-worn cameras.

Whitfield was eventually restrained using two pairs of handcuffs. IMPD said linking two pairs of handcuffs typically provides "more comfort to larger individuals." Whitfield was approximately 6'2" and 280 pounds, according to police.

An IMPD public information officer said, "once the man was detained, medics, who had been waiting outside for the scene to be safe to enter, were requested to come inside the home. At that point, medics asked the man to roll over and he did not respond. After medics checked for a pulse, Whitfield was unhandcuffed, and medics and several officers administered CPR."

Whitfield was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Multiple investigations are underway, including a criminal probe and one by IMPD internal affairs. The civilian-majority Use of Force Review Board will investigate the officers’ use of force after other investigations have been completed.

The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. They were identified Friday as patrol officers Steven Sanchez (two-year veteran), Adam Ahmad (two-year veteran), Matthew Virt (two-year veteran), Dominique Clark (five-year veteran), Jordan Bull (seven-year veteran) and recruit trainee Nicholas Mathew (with IMPD since August 2021).

Data from the stun gun was downloaded and will be used as part of the investigation.

The video recorded by the officers' body-worn cameras will be released in the coming weeks.

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