INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana prosecutor has come under increasing criticism for refusing to conduct a trial that may have prevented a man from accessing the guns that shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Police Union chairman said Marion County Attorney Ryan Mears “did not do his part” in choosing not to bring Brandon Scott Hole before a judge for a hearing under Indiana’s “Red Flag” law even after his mother last called the police to say her son could prosecute “police suicide”.
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“Unfortunately, the lack of action by the Marion County Attorney General prevented a trial that … could have prohibited the suspect from … owning any other firearms,” said Rick Snyder, fraternal police chief of Indianapolis. “Why didn’t the prosecutor request the hearing required by law? Why didn’t the prosecutor use all available legal instruments? Why didn’t the prosecutor try?”
The law allows the police to seize weapons from someone who is considered dangerous to themselves or others. The prosecution can then decide whether to ask a court to prohibit that person from buying other firearms.
The law was reviewed after the attack after Mears criticized it for having too many “loopholes”. Despite demands from the Democratic Legislature to review and strengthen the red flag provisions, these measures have been suspended. The 2021 legislative period ended on Thursday.
Police seized a pump-action shotgun from the then 18-year-old Hole in March 2020 after receiving the call from his mother. Mears said Monday that prosecutors were not seeking a “red flag” hearing to prevent Hole from owning a gun because the law did not allow them to definitively demonstrate his suicidal tendencies.
Mears pointed to a change in law in 2019 that would require the courts to use “good faith” efforts to hold a hearing within 14 days. After an additional change, the authorities must submit an affidavit to the court within 48 hours.
“This person was taken and treated by medics and they were cut loose,” and Mears said he wasn’t even prescribed any medication. “The risk is that if we push ahead with this process (red flag) and lose, we have to give this person back this weapon. We were not ready for that.”
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Indianapolis police previously said they never returned this shotgun to Hole. Authorities said he used two “assault” rifles at the FedEx facility on April 15 to shoot down eight people, four of them from the city’s Sikh community, before killing himself.
Members and leaders of the Sikh community have called for law enforcement agencies to conduct a “thorough” and “transparent” investigation, including an investigation into the possibility of bias motivating Hole, said Satjeet Kaur, executive director of the Sikh coalition. However, these calls have so far avoided direct criticism of Mears.
“If it is found that this law contains a flaw that could have prevented this tragedy, the law should be established,” said Kaur. “If the law has been implemented incorrectly as written, those responsible must be held accountable.”
Republican Senator Erin Houchin, who sponsored changes to the Indiana red flag law in 2019, said it “could have worked as it should” in the Hole case.
“I think if the prosecutor had followed the red flag procedure in this case, the 19-year-old might not have been able to buy a second gun after the family volunteered that gun,” said Houchin.
Mears didn’t return any messages on Friday looking for additional comments.
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Indiana law does not require prosecutors to try red flag cases. Houchin said she would consider changing the language to “solidify” the process, but only after more facts about the shooting come to light.
Snyder said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has made at least 45 referrals to prosecutors so far this year. Mears said Monday that his office had filed eight red flag petitions since January. Everyone is still waiting for decisions.
“The prosecutor seems to have suggested that the system failed, but I would like to point out that the system did not fail in this case,” said Synder. “A loophole did not prevent this opportunity, instead the process was bypassed.”
The video in the player above is from an earlier report.
Casey Smith is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national service program that lets journalists report undercover issues to local newsrooms.
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