For Immediate Release
May 6, 2022
LIVE FREE Demands Meeting with Mayor Joe Hogsett Following Death of Herman Whitfield III
Calls for Additional Measures
INDIANAPOLIS – LIVE FREE today decried the death of Herman Whitfield III, who died in police custody on April 25 in Indianapolis. Whitfield was having a mental health crisis when he was handcuffed, put on his stomach and tased by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police. He died a short time later. LIVE FREE, which works to end gun violence, mass incarceration and the death penalty, issued the following statement in response:
“Having a mental health crisis shouldn’t be a death sentence,” said Rosie Bryant, lead organizer for LIVE FREE Indianapolis. “No person or family seeking support for a mental health break should experience state-sanctioned violence. Herman Whitfield’s life mattered and he and his family deserved better. LIVE FREE has called for several things, including a meeting with Mayor Joe Hogsett within the next 24 hours.
“There is nothing that can be done to make this family whole,” Bryant said. “But city officials can demonstrate their commitment to addressing police violence by taking three steps. First, the officers involved in the death of Herman Whitfield must be immediately fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Next, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears must lead the investigation of this case rather than the matter being assigned to a special prosecutor. Finally, Mayor Hogsett must commit to funding a clinician-led crisis team with a plan to scale the program to properly meet the community’s needs.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time set aside to highlight the importance of mental health while erasing the stigma of mental illness. Unfortunately, law enforcement is failing miserably when it comes to de-escalating situations involving persons experiencing a mental health crisis. Studies show that persons with untreated mental illness are 16 percent more likely to die in encounters with police. Black people are also more likely to die during contact with police.
“These vulnerabilities combine to create a precarious position for persons who are Black and also experiencing a mental health challenge,” said Rev. Michael McBride, founder of LIVE FREE.