INDIANAPOLIS — In the first six months of 2022, more than 100 people have lost their lives at the hands of another person across Indianapolis.
At least nine victims, or about 8% of all victims this year, are under the age of 18, according to information provided by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD).
“It’s tragic anytime somebody dies, but it’s tragic particularly when you have such youth — young minds being taken unnecessarily and tragically in our community,” said Kendale Adams, Deputy Chief of IMPD’s Criminal Investigations Division.
Two of the juvenile victims killed in 2022 were less than 1-years-old and died from blunt force trauma, homicide records show.
Seven other juvenile victims, between the ages of 14 and 17, died from gunshot injuries, including 16-year-old Michael Duerson. The teen lost his life in a shooting on April 10 in the 5600 block of East 30th Street.
“He was a really supportive child for anything that you were going through, good or bad. He was a good friend to have and a good child to have,” said Michael’s mother, Antionette Lanier. “He pretty much trusted everybody, which was a gift and a curse.”
It’s been almost three months since Michael was shot to death and his mother is still hoping every day that someone will be arrested and charged in her son’s killing.
“It’s hard to register, very hard to process. It’s definitely a hard pill to swallow. He’s just a child,” Lanier said.
Lanier knows closure doesn’t exist for families who lose a child or loved one in the way she did, but said an arrest would give her family answers as to who took her only son’s life.
“That took a big part of me. That took a big piece from me,” said Lanier. “It’s not fair that I have to go spend every Sunday at Crown Hill and talk to my son, but I can’t get a response back.”
She also hopes that people will speak up for the other victims, who no longer have a voice to do that.
“My son lost his life to a senseless murder and if it was anybody else’s child, they would want someone to do the same,” said Lanier.
IMPD records show all nine juvenile homicide cases from 2022 remain unsolved, with no arrests made.
Police have seen a recent, encouraging trend in help from the community that’s played a role in homicide arrests, and said they need that to continue so they can help seek justice for even more victims of all ages.
“I am encouraged this year by the cooperation we have seen in terms of community members coming forward. I think what that’s telling me is the community members are just fed up,” said Adams.
He knows there is still work to do and said part of that is convincing community members to work with police to share information and evidence to hopefully make even more progress in solving cases when a crime occurs.
“These families that their youth have been taken from them, they deserve justice and if there are people in this community or in communities that know, that refuse to cooperate, it’s going to make it very difficult to identify a suspect,” said Adams.
Generically speaking, in some cases, investigators may already have an idea of a person or persons involved in a crime, but without sufficient evidence that can prove someone’s involvement beyond reasonable doubt, it makes the job of investigators all that more difficult to present a case for prosecution.
“In society today, we have to have that additional context to solve these cases, whether it’s a juvenile or it’s an adult, when people refuse to cooperate and come forward, it makes it difficult,” said Adams. “However, I understand that challenge folks living in these communities have to deal with.”
“A lot of these cases go to trial and when you’re sitting in front of a jury, for a police officer to say, ‘hey he did it, she did it,’ is not good enough. Jurors want to see more. They want to hear from witnesses that may have seen this incident or may have knowledge of this incident. It becomes very critical in the times that we’re in today that people come forward and cooperate with police because it can be the difference between what we know, what we believe, versus what we can prove,” said Adams.
Adams said there are procedures in place and programs to help witnesses who are willing to come forward, but that the system as a whole will continue working to get to a point where the fear of coming forward is hopefully eliminated.
“We need to continue working in that space to make people feel comfortable about coming forward,” said Adams.
On top of that, he said it will take people willing to work together to prevent violence before it happens.
“It’s a challenge right, we’re looking at the police like how do we solve this? But we’re looking at the wrong people,” Adams said. “There’s a lot of work to do, there’s a lot of work being done, but clearly when you have the number of youths that are tragically taken out of our community and a single – really before the year is even over – that’s a concern and we need to do more.”
He added, “It’s not just a police problem. It’s just not a city of Indianapolis problem. It is a problem that we all must tackle collectively together.”
Adams said one of the starting places is encouraging youths and their parents, grandparents, and caregivers to get them involved in programs, specifically ones that provide an opportunity to work with a mentor. One area he encourages people to talk about with their own family members and children, is good conflict resolution skills.
“Additionally, parents need to engage their young people, know what they’re doing,” said Adams. “Social media plays a significant part in some of the violence we are seeing in our community.”
“In a minute we’re not gonna have a future, because there’s not gonna be no kids. Somebody needs to do something. These kids are losing their life senselessly,” said Lanier.
Anyone with information on Michael Duerson’s case or any other unsolved crimes, is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at (317) 262-TIPS. A reminder you can always remain anonymous.
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