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by Maddie Boyd
Almost two years ago, three cops with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) arrested and brutalized Jermaine Vaughn, a 38-year old Black man, on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis for the “crime” of speaking in a public space. Later this month, one of the three cops involved, white 44-year Sgt. Eric Huxley, will appear in court to face state charges against him, both of which are two level-6 felony charges, one for official misconduct and another for battery with moderate bodily injury. If convicted and imprisoned, this would represent a small but quite significant step in the struggle for justice for Vaughn and all victims of the IMPD.
The charges stem from a disorderly conduct call placed on September 24, 2021. Huxley, accompanied by Sgt. Christopher Kibbey and Officer Matthew Shores, arrived to investigate the report. According to their narrative, Kibbey claimed Vaughn was “yelling to no one in particular” and he “ordered” Vaughn to quiet down. As Vaughn correctly and bravely tried to reason with the officers (who were arresting him for practicing his free speech rights), Shores handcuffed Vaughn and shoved him into the concrete. Kibbey “searched” Vaughn while Shores kept him pinned to the ground.
Once Vaughn was handcuffed and held on the ground by two armed IMPD officers, Huxley approached their victim and “stomped” on him, kicking him in the face. Huxley dealt the first blow to his mouth, which immediately began bleeding. As Huxley continued his brutality, another cop shouted to Vaughn: “You’re done! You’re done!”
Instead of assessing Vaughn’s injuries and taking him to receive the medical care he needed, they took him to jail. Photos taken at booking show a laceration on his lower lip with fresh blood. Huxley, who has not yet been fired by IMPD and remains on administrative leave, claims it was an accident. In the probable cause affidavit, he claims that, “I accidentally kicked him in his face. I was attempting to put my foot on his shoulder and I accidentally kicked him in his face.”
Past uprising and forces a response; IMPD chief apologizes to cops
The cops viciously arrested and brutalized Vaughn for speaking in broad daylight in the middle of downtown Indianapolis. Their attack also came in the immediate aftermath of the historic 2020 uprisings against the War on Black America—which began in Indianapolis about a month before the nationwide revolts. The cops had to do something.
On October 12, IMPD Police Chief Randal Taylor held a press conference and announced the IMPD launched an internal investigation a few days earlier. Huxley was placed on administrative leave and would likely face charges with the support of the FBI and U.S Attorney’s Office, he said. Kibbey and Shores were placed on administrative duty. Taylor stated he officially recommended Huxley’s termination to the Civilian Police Merit Board, although Huxley is still an IMPD employee pending the criminal charges. Huxley later received an additional federal charge for deprivation under color of law.
During the press conference, Taylor made it a point to emphasize that the treatment Jermaine Vaughn received was not typical for officers in Indianapolis. “To the citizen involved in this incident, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. That interaction does not represent IMPD and the work our officers do each day to keep our community safe.”
Tamarria Fernandez, a Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) member and an organizer of an upcoming protest against Vaughn, saw things differently. “The situation could’ve been avoided, but IMPD officers chose not to help Vaughn the right way. They used violence against him. It’s evident in the video. An officer told him to roll over, but Vaughn couldn’t roll over.”
The community’s response: Police terror is the rule, not the exception
The response from the public told a radically different story. Hours after Taylor’s press conference ended, a collective of community organizations including Indy10 Black Lives Matter, Indianapolis PSL, and others, released a statement providing crucial context omitted from Taylor’s statement and included important corrections.
Despite Taylor’s constant reassurance that these are “one-off” instances that his administration moves quickly to resolve, Shores had over 300 complaints for excessive use of force, 58 percent of which were against Black people in a city in which they comprise around 28 percent of the population. The groups also noted that Kibbey was previously a “Supervisor of the Year” and that the Merit Board previously overturned recommendations to fire police officers. They also pointed out that during the conference Taylor apologized to not only IMPD officers, but to all police in the United States: “My apology not only goes out to the men and women of IMPD that do it right,” he said, “but every other law enforcement officer in this state and in this country.”
The groups launched a petition demanding the immediate release of Vaughn, the removal of his charges, and that Taylor resign.
Local community organizer, cultural worker, and community historian Wildstyle published an open letter to the City-County Council for Indy Black LIVE following Taylor’s press conference, which is worth quoting at length:
“Even though I rarely agree with Chief Taylor on anything, We actually share similar sentiments regarding one statement he made. This is not typical of what we would see. Typical, an interesting word… those officers and their interactions with Jermaine Vaughn weren’t typical of what we see because they actually represent the pinnacle of policing at IMPD. Any logical person watching body camera footage of 3 veteran IMPD officers arguing with a handcuffed man not accused of any crime other than talking to himself too loudly in public, understands this likely isn’t just a one-off situation. IMPD’s Supervisor of the year watched and did nothing as a 23 year IMPD veteran officer pushes and takes down a handcuffed man for failing to comply with commands the officer himself was physically preventing him from completing, that wasn’t an aberration. And when Sgt. Huxley stomped Mr Vaughn’s face and other veteran officers didn’t get him medical attention or hold Sgt. Huxley accountable in their reports this wasn’t abnormal, it was standard operating procedure.”
On November 4, the PSL Indianapolis and Queering Indy rallied outside of the Marion County Jail where Vaughn was still being held. The protest called for the immediate removal of all charges against Vaughn, along with the immediate release of Titan Kelly. Kelly was arrested in the summer 2020 uprisings while protecting the people from the IMPD’s expired tear gas canisters and faces five years in prison. Meanwhile, the cops who unleashed the violence of thousands of Indianapolis residents go unpunished.
From the courts to the streets, the struggle for justice for Vaughn continues
Although the story has largely faded from public consciousness and the movement in Indianapolis is temporarily at an ebb, the struggle for justice for Jermaine Vaughn continues.
This February, Jermaine Vaughn filed a lawsuit against the city of Indianapolis, IMPD, Chief Randall Taylor, the City-County Council, Mayor Joe Hogsett, and Huxley, Shores, and Kibbey. According to the suit filed, Vaughn suffered “extensive physical injuries, mental anguish, medical expenses, damage to his reputation, future medical expenses, and other damages.” Importantly, they highlight that the IMPD’s attack was intentional. “I’m not going to do the jury’s job. I’ll let them determine what the motivator was,” said Vaughn’s attorney, Robert Turner. “I think most people who saw it know that it was wrong.” If victorious, Vaughn would receive punitive, monetary, and other damages yet to be determined as well as compensation for his legal fees.”
This is one of several cascading lawsuits against the cops and the city, proving beyond any doubt that Huxley, Kibbey, and Shores are not exceptional and that “IMPD’s reign of terror,” as Wildstyle termed it in a recent interview with ANSWER Indiana, must end. “Again, IMPD has violated trust against the city—not only the city, but the Black community and our unhoused neighbors, Fernandez said. This is why it is so important to defund the police. All three officers need to be fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
However, the courts and the cops are part of the same system. This not only means that we need a street-based movement to support Huxley’s prosecution and Vaughn’s civil suit, but that we need to keep building a multinational movement against all forms of oppression and exploitation.
On May 16, Indy10 Black Lives Matter, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Jesse Brown for Indianapolis, the Black Liberation Party, and others will hold a protest outside of the Community “Justice” Campus as Huxley’s hearing begins. The protest will start at 1:00 pm on the corner of English and Southeastern Ave.