Photo: People find Mears’ office locked during public hours. Credit: ANSWER Indiana
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears has been busy attacking community members demanding charges after IMPD cop Douglas Correll shot Gary Harrell in the back, killing him on August 3. While ignoring requests from Indianapolis Liberation for comment and intimidating organizers from his office with armed cops, Mears somehow found time to disparage popular grassroots campaigns in statements to corporate media on October 4, two months after Harrell’s murder.
In a statement to WRTV about weekly protests at his office, Mears said:
“The biggest thing for us… we have to work within the parameters of the criminal justice system. We have to make sure [we] are following the law. We also want to make sure we get it right. This idea that things will happen overnight is not consistent with what we know about the criminal justice process or the criminal justice system.”
The Prosecutor’s Office relied on a grand jury to indict the officers who nearly murdered Anthony Maclin in January 2023. His office said, in a statement published by WTHR announcing the low-level felony charges against the officers, that they were “thankful to the Maclin family for their patience and grace during this immensely difficult time.”
Mears does not deserve the patience or grace from the families of people gunned down and killed by other means by IMPD. There is no expectation that every family take public action to demand the prosecutor take action, and not only because it is literally his job to take such action. What is most reprehensible is Mears’ attempt to pit families of IMPD victims against one another and discourage public assembly—a form of protected speech—in a thinly-veiled threat against community members who support each other, like the various residents and groups standing with the Harrell family.
Prosecutor leverages grand juries to shift blame for lack of charges against cops
Indiana does not require a grand jury to return an indictment for someone to be charged with a crime. The prosecutor can file charges without ever convening a grand jury. Prosecutors use grand juries, special prosecutors, or both to shield themselves from criticism for failing to bring charges against cops. When Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose were murdered hours apart by IMPD officers in May 2020, Ryan Mears hid behind a special prosecutor and grand jury that failed to return indictments. A special prosecutor failed to indict the cops who murdered Aaron Bailey, who are both active IMPD officers with badges and guns.
Under Indiana law, grand juries are advised by the prosecutor, who can share with them damning evidence even if it couldn’t be legally used against a defendant in trial. The prosecutor controls what evidence the grand jury sees, and even “often make recommendations on whether a grand jury should return an indictment.” Grand jury proceedings are deeply secret, with any leak of grand jury activity itself a crime. The fact that prosecutors have so much influence over their decision makes it clear that the failure of so many grand juries to indict cops is not because of a lack of evidence—especially with body cameras now worn by IMPD—but a lack of political will to treat criminal cops like any other criminal.
When a working-class person is accused of a crime in Indianapolis, Ryan Mears does not convene a grand jury and spend nine months hemming and hawing over whether he should file charges. The police arrest that person and, often, they languish in the Marion County Jail while they wait for trial. When police brazenly commit crimes on camera, Mears lets them walk freely for months, buying them many weeks of freedom and time to consolidate a story while a grand jury “deliberates” charges.
Mears calls for patience and grace, Lacks both himself
In Mears’ statement to the corporate press, he patronizingly told aggrieved community members that they needed to be more patient with his office. Yet, when the community patiently, calmly, and quietly walked to the Prosecutor’s Office to schedule a meeting with Mears, they found the doors locked.
The crowd started to trickle into the Prosecutor’s Office a little after noon. The same workers seen in previous weeks stood around in the lobby, including the security guard Ray who had shouted and screamed at the community to leave the week prior. This time, he remained silent, sitting behind the desk. The quiet and reserved demeanor of everyone working inside of the building was a stark contrast to the events that led up to the removal of the group previously. Perhaps the presence of local news outlets tempered their typical aggressive behavior.
The armed cops and security inside of the “private” building housing the Prosecutor’s Office said the doors were locked because the majority-Black grouping made the Prosecutor’s staff uncomfortable. They were told to leave, no mentions of a meeting was made, and no real reasons were given for a public government building to be closed in the middle of a weekday other than for the supposed feelings of the people who worked there. As a reminder, the community group demanding justice for Gary Harrell has never been aggressive or violent towards anyone inside of the Prosecutor’s Office or the private building it is stationed in. The community met outside and now felt that they had received their answer from the prosecutor. Not through a meeting with the concerned community members, but via a public statement to the corporate media to spin a tale that he does not have to be accountable to “protesters.”
“I can’t talk about cases. I can talk about cases when we make a decision when a case is filed and when a case is resolved. Prior to that and during the pendency of it there is really not anything I’m permitted to say or talk about,” Mears said. “I think everybody for the most part in our community understands that. I think there are some people that may have a different perspective but the ground rules are pretty clear.”
Rules for thee but not for Mears
The ground rules are clear. Mears application of these rules, however, are clearly subject to his own personal interests. The cops can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and without any consequences. A cop like Correll, with a documented history of racist violence and civil-rights violations, can murder Harrell and be rewarded with a now two-month long paid vacation. However, if a small group of people ask for a meeting with Mears, that is absolutely impossible.
In reality, the ground rules clearly state Mears can indict Correll right now. We think that most of the people in Indianapolis, those who don’t work in high-rise offices protected by cops on the ground floor, share that perspective.