Black Lives Matter Coalition calls for termination of 21 officers involved in 2019 drowning of Keshawn Stewart

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Dispatch and operational audio from the Indianapolis Fire Department recovery of Keshawn Stewart released Tuesday to organizers with Indy10 Black Lives Matter and the Party for Socialism and Liberation in response to requests for public records reveals new details of IMPD’s inaction that led to his death. Stewart, 18, drowned on June 29, 2019, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department defamed him after his death as a “burglar.” Protests were organized demanding justice for Keshawn that summer, but predictably, neither IMPD nor the city’s political leadership delivered.

According to IFD records, IMPD called for assistance at 4:20 AM. The provided audio of this call immediately reveals the inhuman indifference toward Black life that the police took toward the need for a rescue, blaming Keshawn for his own death.

IFD: Fire and Ambulance.
IMPD: This is across the hall, can we have you out to 3910, uh, 3510 Kebil Drive?
IFD: Okay, what’s going on?
IMPD: It’s gonna be for a water rescue at the retention pond. There was a male burglarizing a house, and he’s decided he wants to stay underneath the water.
IFD: Okay. All right. We’ll get them out there, verify location, please?
IMPD: It’s 3510 Kebil Drive at the retention pond.
IFD: All right. We’ll get them out there.
IMPD: All right, thank you very much.

IMPD officers’ callous disregard for human life was already known, with similarly heartless comments made by officer Steven Scott over the body of Dreasjon Reed sparking outrage earlier this year. But the accompanying IFD operational audio is most damning of the police. Five minutes into the provided audio file, the following exchange happens:

Operations: Command, from Operations.
Command: Go ahead.
Operations: We have the victim recovered, bringing him to shore.
Command: Copy. Control, we have victim recovery, one of one. Engine 33, stand by to decon.
Control: Clear, victim recovered, 4:57.
Command: Control, Kebil Command, give me a timestamp on recovery.
Control: Clear, victim recovered at 4:57.
Operations: Operations for Command.
Command: Go ahead for Command.
Operations: Do we know how long this victim has been in the water?
Command: [Medic] 64, do you have any approximate idea as to how long he’s been in?
Medic 64: Be advised, he, uh, entered the water at 01:17; it’s 4:57 now.

According to this audio, Keshawn Stewart entered the retention pond at 1:17 AM. IMPD waited to call for assistance for over three hours, telling IFD then that he “decided he wants to stay underneath the water.” By that time, it was too late. Keshawn was pronounced dead at the scene.

The family of Keshawn Stewart maintained from day one that he was a strong swimmer and that he would not have died under normal circumstances. These public records confirm their fears. They also confirm the realization shared by many millions of people in Indianapolis and across the country: that police departments and the officers in them do not exist to protect human life and serve our communities. They exist to protect property and serve property owners.

The myth of the “good cop,” reinforced by police propaganda like the story of an IMPD water rescue of teens on the city’s southeast side, vanishes when examining the death of Keshawn Stewart. Of the twenty-one IMPD officers on the scene at one time or another, not a single one gave assistance to Keshawn or attempted to rescue him. Not a single officer spoke out about the outrage of their fellow officers who waited three hours to request IFD assistance with a water rescue, and only then only doing so because he had slipped under the water.

Furthermore, police know that under the law, they have no duty to protect human life. The history of policing is rooted in protection not of life, but of property: that of the slave-owning class and now the property of the capitalist class. We demand a better world where the people—not the police—have control over our own communities.

As a minimum demand towards that world, Indy10 Black Lives Matter, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, ANSWER Indiana, the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance (IUYA), Queering Indy, and Indianapolis SURJ demand that the following twenty-one officers whose names appear on the IMPD incident report be terminated for their involvement in this preventable death:

  1. Sergeant Kevin Kendall
  2. Sergeant Aaron Schlesinger
  3. Patrol Officer Christopher Anderson
  4. Patrol Officer Mark Ayler
  5. Patrol Officer Genae Cook
  6. Patrol Officer Richard Cosby
  7. Patrol Officer Evan Davis
  8. Patrol Officer Michael Douglass
  9. Patrol Officer Jessica Forsyth
  10. Patrol Officer Steven Gray
  11. Patrol Officer Aaron Hamer
  12. Patrol Officer Jeremy Madriz
  13. Patrol Officer John McVay
  14. Patrol Officer Nicholas Modesto
  15. Patrol Officer Brian Nall
  16. Patrol Officer Russell O’Connor
  17. Patrol Officer Brian Ramey
  18. Patrol Officer Albert Teaters
  19. Patrol Officer Jeffrey Thomas
  20. Patrol Officer Melissa Tillison
  21. Patrol Officer Joshua Treft

We further demand the defunding and demilitarization of IMPD and the abolition of the Fraternal Order of Police. We demand justice for Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose, for Eleanor Northington, Christopher Goodlow, Keshawn Stewart, Aaron Bailey, and all victims of racist police terror. We demand an end to the war on Black America!