IMPD releases body cam video in Herman Whitfield III's in-custody death

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Indianapolis police on Tuesday released some of the body cam video and other evidence in the April 25 incident that ended in the death of Herman Whitfield III, a gifted pianist who was suffering a mental crisis.

The department released a 14-minute Critical Incident Video that included recorded 911 calls and video from cameras worn by officers who responded to Whitfield's northeast-side home in the 3700 block of Marrison Place. WRTV has requested unedited copies of the body camera video and 911 calls.

Last week, Whitfield's parents filed a lawsuit against IMPD claiming the officers failed to follow department policy aimed at preventing positional asphyxia, a deadly condition that happens when a handcuffed person is placed in a position that makes it hard for them to inhale and exhale. The 39-year-old was a nationally recognized musician and composer.

"The officers’ body cam videos show that shortly after Mr. Whitfield cried, 'I can’t breathe,' the third time, he did not move or breath at all," attorneys for Whitfield's family say in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. "Yet the officers continued to put weight on him for three to four minutes before medics arrived."

According to IMPD, police were called to Whitfield's northeast-side home as he was suffering a mental crisis when officers handcuffed and Tasered him on April 25. Whitfield died later at a hospital.

IMPD Chief Randal Taylor declined to comment on the video and would not answer specific questions as to whether he thought the officers followed department policy that night.

The incident is being investigated by IMPD's Internal Affairs Unit and the Critical Incident Response Team. The Marion County Prosecutor's Office is being consulted throughout the investigation, the department said.

While IMPD released part of the body camera videos on Tuesday, the department hasn’t released the full, unedited videos.

On May 3, IMPD denied WRTV's requests for body camera videos citing an open investigation.

On Tuesday, after IMPD released part of the videos to the public, WRTV submitted another records request again requesting all of the full, unedited body camera videos. We are still awaiting a formal response.

WRTV also requested all 911 calls and dispatch notes from the incident, but the request was denied because the records are considered to be “investigatory records.”

“IMPD, as a general rule, does not release such documents without a subpoena,” an email from IMPD read.

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