In December 2012, officer Christopher Wilburn of IMPD responded to a call on the north side that would change two lives—his and that of the man he killed.
It was a simple “secure the residence” call. You don’t get much information in advance with those, and they’re often the most deadly. I was in the area, so I arrived pretty quickly. I was met by the homeowner, who showed me a broken window near her door. Someone had climbed in, and it didn’t appear he had climbed back out. That’s when the hairs on the back of my neck went up: We had a caged intruder in the house. So I ushered the homeowner out and called for backup. My partner and I cleared the house and were finally met in the basement by the suspect. We saw him hiding under a bunch of coats in the corner. He was not obeying verbal commands, and at some point, he reached into his waistband. We perceived that to be a threat to our lives. I fired, striking him multiple times and killing him. It turned out he was not armed, which is where the guilt comes in. But there were multiple weapons and ammunition within close proximity. And officers don’t have time to debate why a person isn’t showing their hands in a dark basement.
When an officer is involved in a deadly shooting, Homicide is called to the scene. Witnesses are separated. The same procedures for a civilian shooting apply, but there are more of them. The process can last as long as a year. I was totally cleared for this incident.
After experiencing this and the emotional toll, some might hesitate to pull their gun again. You fear you’ll lose your home or be criminally charged. That can lead to deadly encounters for the officer in the future. I hope I would make the same decision if it ever happened again.
Indianapolis is coming off one of its deadliest years ever. Under the Gun, from our February 2015 issue, offers a grim look at the violence killing our city.