Two Indianapolis police officers involved in the death of a man who was experiencing a mental health crisis have been indicted by a grand jury, the prosecutor’s office said Thursday.
Officers Adam Ahmad and Steven Sanchez were charged with various counts, including manslaughter, in connection with the death of Herman Whitfield III, who was handcuffed and used a stun gun by officers while responding to a call at his home.
Whitfield’s father told police that Whitfield was «having a psychosis» and needed an ambulance.
Ahmad was charged with one count of manslaughter and Sanchez was charged with two counts, Marion County Attorney Ryan Mears said in a news release. Both were also charged with felony manslaughter, assault resulting in grievous bodily injury, and assault resulting in moderate injury, as well as one count of misdemeanor assault.
Sanchez, Ahmad and other Indianapolis officers were placed on paid administrative leave, a standard procedure, following the April 25, 2022 death. All remain on leave, Police Chief Randal Taylor said in a statement Thursday.
“Chief Taylor respects the grand jury process. As with any accused person, officers should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law,» he said, calling Whitfield’s death a «tragedy for all involved.»
Police were called to the home at around 3:20 a.m. and told Whitfield was having a mental health episode. When officers called an ambulance, they saw Whitfield walking naked through the house, sweating and bleeding from his mouth, police said in a news release at the time.
Officers tried to speak to Whitfield, but police said he moved into an area of the home where officers lost sight of him multiple times. They tried unsuccessfully for more than 10 minutes to negotiate with Whitfield before he «moved quickly toward an officer,» the department said.
A taser was used on the 6-foot-2, 280-pound man, striking him in the chest, police said. They then placed him in two pairs of conjoined handcuffs, which the police department said are generally more comfortable for larger people.
Medics entered the house and asked Whitfield to turn around, but he did not respond. After checking the pulse, the handcuffs were removed and medics and several officers began CPR, according to police. Whitfield was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy report listed the cause of death as «cardiopulmonary arrest in a law enforcement setting, prone restraint, and conducted use of electrical weapons» with morbid obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease as contributing factors. The manner was determined to be a homicide.
Lawyers for Ahmad and Sanchez issued a statement in response to the accusation, NBC News affiliate. WTHR reportssaying the officers «did not act illegally or with any kind of criminal intent.»
«Officers Ahmad and Sánchez have no prior criminal or disciplinary records,» the statement said. «The merit of these allegations will ultimately be determined through due process in a court of law and we ask the public to allow that process to unfold.»
Whitfield’s family issued a statement Thursday, saying they are «grateful that the criminal process is continuing and hope that justice will prevail for their son.»