Indiana State Police are investigating an alleged racial profiling incident Saturday at the Statehouse, where a Capitol Police officer reportedly prepared to unholster and draw his gun while yelling at state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary.
There are no known video recordings or photographs of the confrontation that followed Melton and state Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, leading a few dozen Indiana Racial Justice Alliance rally participants from the Statehouse lawn into the building for safety as severe thunderstorms rolled through the capital city.
According to Belinda Drake, a Democratic Senate candidate from Indianapolis, a white Capitol Police officer rushing toward the group saw Melton and yelled at him to "freeze" while unsnapping the holster on his firearm — "presumably in preparation to draw his weapon at an unarmed black senator."
"Senator Ford tried to deescalate the situation, tried to get the trooper to take notice and listen, but the trooper was so singularly focused on Senator Melton," Drake said.
"Senator Ford was eventually able to get the trooper to hear him and to ease his aggression toward Senator Melton. The difference in how aggressively the trooper treated Senator Melton compared to how generously he treated Senator Ford was unnerving."
Ford, who is white, represents the north and west sides of Indianapolis in the Senate. He's a graduate of Purdue University Northwest in Hammond.
Melton described the situation as "unfortunate" in a statement issued Monday. A video recording of his speech at the rally Saturday suggests Melton clearly was shaken by it.
"That was just an interesting exchange behind us, so bear with me for a second," said Melton, who was wearing a T-shirt featuring the words "I can't breathe," as spoken by George Floyd, a black man, moments before he died while a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.
"An incident just occurred and just that quick, it could have escalated. Just that quick. The reach for a weapon. That don't make sense."
Melton said he's spoken to Senate leadership and Capitol Police about a formal review of the incident.
At the same time, Melton said: "I want to be clear that I don’t want this situation to become a distraction from the work that we're doing through the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus on our police reform agenda."
Ford said while it's understandable a police officer might not recognize two state senators dressed in casual clothes, the disrespectful treatment Melton received is an unacceptable way for police to engage with anyone in the Statehouse.
"These kinds of incidents are all too common for black and brown Hoosiers," Ford said. "The only difference is that this time I had a front-row seat and got to see with my own eyes exactly why so many Hoosiers are so upset with the way they are often treated by law enforcement."
The Statehouse generally is closed to the public on weekends and largely has been closed to everyone since March, including state employees, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Visitors to the building normally have to pass through a metal detector.
In this case, the senators said they used their electronic key cards to open the Statehouse door to get people out of the storm that ultimately felled numerous large trees in Indianapolis, including some near the Statehouse.
The Statehouse incident follows a July 4 confrontation between Vauhxx Booker, a black man, and group of white men at Lake Monroe, near Bloomington, Indiana, that's been described as an "attempted lynching" since one of the white men reportedly said, "Get a rope" while they pinned Booker to a tree.
Drake, who is black, said the two events show "it doesn’t matter how far we think we've come, we still have so much further to go. ... Last week, it was being black in the woods. This week, it is being black in the Statehouse."
"It didn't matter that Senator Melton is elected to state office. It didn't matter that Senator Melton was being responsible and doing the right thing by going to talk with the trooper. It didn't matter that Senator Melton was doing everything that the trooper yelled at him to do. It didn't matter that Senator Melton was cooperating. It didn't matter that Senator Melton was unarmed. None of that mattered," she said.
"What happened to Senator Melton was an act of systemic racism through the use of racial profiling by law enforcement, and it glaringly points to the need for structural change in Indiana."
Indiana State Police Sgt. Ron Galaviz said a formal complaint about the alleged Statehouse incident "has been received" and "an investigation is currently underway."
He did not indicate when the investigation will be completed.
The Region responds to the death of George Floyd
Collection: The Region responds to the death of George Floyd
Following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, organizers throughout multiple municipalities in the Region joined with others in rallying against systemic racism.
View stories, photo galleries and videos reported by staff and correspondents from multiple days of protest coverage.
The protest began Saturday morning outside the Hammond Police Department before moving to the streets. Police formed a blockade at 171st and Calumet to prevent the crowd from moving onto I-80/94.
Protesters gathered outside the Hammond Police Department Tuesday morning and later marched down the street. Police formed a blockade at 171st…
"The comments were not serious in nature and in poor taste. They were meant as a joke to my friend and in no way serious," Chesterton Town Councilman Robert Allision, D-3rd, said in his post.
Demonstrators protest police brutality throughout the nation with a rally in Hammond. The protesters then marched down Calumet Avenue where th…
Several businesses were shut down on the Torrence Avenue commercial strip in Calumet City and Lansing.
Protesters were speaking out about the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Protesters call for justice for George Floyd, who died in police custody, at a Southlake Mall rally on Sunday.
Protesters call for justice for George Floyd, who died in police custody, at a Southlake Mall rally on Sunday.
Protestors call for justice in the death of George Floyd outside Southlake Mall on Sunday.
Protestors call for justice for George Floyd at a Southlake Mall rally in Hobart on Sunday.
The Lake County Tactical Unit team arrives at Southlake Mall as the number of protesters has reached more than 300 seeking justice for George …
Protesters mobilized their rally and have blocked off parts of U.S. 30 near Southlake Mall. Hundreds have gathered to protest racial injustice…
Hundreds of protesters stood in a field of tall grass behind the Michigan City Police Station before taking their message of “No justice, no peace” to the streets.
Hundreds of protesters demand justice behind the Michigan City Police Department in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody l…
As protesters moved from Southlake Mall towards I-65, police used tear gas to try and stop the movement.
Protesters and police faced off at Southlake Mall and U.S. 30 in Hobart on Sunday.
As protesters move throughout Michigan City, one person decided to climb a railroad signal. Protesters are rallying for racial injustice acros…
Demonstrators have a standoff with police on U.S. 30 by Southlake Mall in Hobart. The peaceful standoff later escalated when police resort to …
Protesters tried to get into Michigan City's Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets but were turned away by police.
Purdue Northwest, the School City of Hammond and Gary Community School Corp. are taking preventative measures Monday after protests spread across the Region over the weekend.
"The Chesterton Town Council does not share these opinions and unequivocally denounces them," according to the prepared statement from members of the Chesterton Town Council.
Hammond and Calumet City have extended their curfews while businesses clean up after looting.
"I've cleaned up more glass that I have seen in my life," Cullen Wulf said Monday. "It just hurts."
Dozens came together at Gateway Park downtown Gary on Monday to spread a message of peace in wake of the death of George Floyd, who died after…
"We're seeing peaceful protests that start out with a noble cause in mind. Those seeking to right wrongs of the past. ... But we are seeing those peaceful demonstrations get hijacked."
If necessary, Gary is prepared to take more drastic and restrictive steps to protect public safety, including a curfew, Mayor Jerome Prince said.
Dozens came together at Gateway Park downtown Gary on Monday to spread a message of peace in wake of the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.
More than 30 young men and women shouted, “no justice, no peace,” and “George Floyd.” They held “I can’t breath” signs and lied down on the sidewalk outside the old Lake County Courthouse.
Protesters gathered near the Old Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point Monday to rally against racism and the police actions that led to the d…
The rumored protest ended up being small and peaceful.
"Before judging Black people based off our emotional reactions, you must first acknowledge and address the institutional and systemic racism that continues to light that fuse within us."
Valparaiso resident Mike Garcher, who held a sign that read, "End the violence - Recognize humanity," said, "I do believe everyone has a responsibility to call for a change."
"Some key Region leaders have shown us in recent days that they understand and are willing to facilitate these rights in person."
The video, which has been viewed more than 175,000 times on Twitter, shows 21 people standing near the end of the Erie-Lackawanna Trail. Eight of those pictured are holding rifles as the group passes by.
In a statement, Bishop Robert J. McClory noted that the Catholic bishops of this country, “like so many of you, are outraged by his tragic death.”
Please only consider information credible if it is posted on this page or published in the media with the name of a representative from the Gary Police Department and not ‘a source,'" police said.
Most businesses at the Shops on Main and Highland Grove shopping centers and along Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville temporarily closed after social media posts suggested a protest against be staged.
"We will be ready to deploy the cement blocks again within minutes if the situation becomes necessary once again," McDermott said.
The protest in Hammond began peacefully, but a large group moved into the road after about an hour and blocking traffic in an attempt to access I-80/94, police said.
Officers began handing out water to the demonstrators, who gathered Wednesday outside the Munster Police Department.
A group of protesters gathered Wednesday afternoon outside the Police Department, holding signs that read "No justice, no peace" and "Time for…
Police arrested 10 adults and four juveniles Sunday after a protest near Southlake Mall. The gathering was organized to protest police brutality.
“Despite all of our efforts and best intentions, we can always do better,” Valparaiso Mayor Matt Murphy said.
GARY — A handful of protesters called on Thursday for police to release more information about the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old man last su…
The family and friends of the late Rashad Cunningham protested outside the Gary Police Department on Thursday.
"I want people to know what is happening at these protests and to know the entirety of the situation. People need to understand that all lives cannot matter until black lives matter.”
Griffith police condemn social media posts about Black Lives Matter event planned for Sunday at Central Park.
A demonstration in Lowell gathered nearly 100 protestors, a group of Invaders and a handful of residents open-carrying AR-15 guns. It ended in prayer, discussion and peace.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said authorities are constantly monitoring information of possible looting or violent activity.
Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside Gary City Hall Friday prior to marching together through downtown. Video by John Luke.
Dozens of demonstrators rallied Friday at 4th Avenue and Broadway Street in Gary, calling for social justice and more transparency from city officials.
The man, who has not been named, can be seen in various videos wearing a bright green Pure Illumination, Inc., shirt, following protesters and saying things such as, "You're the wrong color."
When Indiana football coach Tom Allen saw the video about the tragic death of George Floyd, followed by protests and more violence powered by …
Organizers gathered outside Munster High School on Friday for a Black Lives Matter rally.
Upwards of 500 people gathered outside the courthouse then marched up and down the sidewalk of the U.S. 35 overpass with about 70 police officers in the area keeping the peace.
Fifteen people gathered at the Crown Point skate park in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police earlier this year while asleep in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Justice can’t be delayed,” Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said.
NWI health care workers joined the national #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives movement in a silent protest Friday morning.
Despite Cpl. Monte White’s instinct to engage with the woman, he said he kept silent — well aware that his job in that moment was to keep peace. He couldn’t drop his guard due to the intensifying crowd of protesters that stood a few, short feet away.
With a global pandemic and now widespread social unrest, it's a been chaotic and challenging time for retailers and small businesses across th…
Rev. Rod Reed leads a gathering of protesters in song on Sunday in Griffith's Central Park. Video by John Luke.
Hundreds gathered in Griffith for a Black Lives Matter event in which they marched around Central Park and lay in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to pay tribute to George Floyd.
Demonstrators protest Sunday at Lake Station City Hall.
The city of Gary is preparing to reexamine the operations of its police department amid nationwide calls for reform.
A Hobart cop is under internal investigation for inflammatory social media comments regarding race, including police response times to black neighborhoods, the police chief confirmed.
Chief Wiley Luther Cuttino said Floyd's death is “damaging to the relationship and trust between the public and police,” and he wants to be part of the solution to rebuild a bond with the community.
A handful of protesters congregated in downtown Griffith Thursday, calling for the closure of a bar that has been at the center of several controversies
“We just want people to be really thinking about (police brutality), and we want people to be able to educate themselves on the issues that really cause that,” one of the event organizers said.
More than 200 joined in the student organized "peaceful protest" outside of Lake Central High School.
She was among the protesters who congregated in downtown Griffith last week, calling for the closure of a bar at the center of several controversies.
CHESTERTON — Two Chesterton High School teachers brought together 250 to 300 people Friday night to work toward equality for all people.
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