Senior staff writer
Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley naturally wants those who live inside and outside the city to think good things about it.
Buckley consistently points with pride to a vastly improved and enhanced Main Street, a more scenic gateway on Emerson Avenue into the city, expanded trails system and the service of its police and fire officers and personnel. He refers to the municipality as a beautiful city.
"We recently endured a bad week in Beech Grove, but that doesn’t mean we are a bad city," Buckley stated in a letter to the editor in this week’s Southsider Voice print edition.
Incidents included a called-off police chase that still ended in tragedy, an fight between two women inside the Walmart on Emerson Avenue (the video went viral), a fatal shooting of a resident that involved a Beech Grove police officer and a SWAT team arrest of a suspect wanted on a warrant at Motel 6 on Elmwood Avenue.
Three of the four incidents were at local businesses and may result in expanded public nuisance legislation by the City Council.
Following a warrant sweep at Motel 6 on June 11, the city used its motel licensing ordinance to declare the inn on Elmwood Avenue as a nuisance. The measure was approved by the council last year in the wake of prostitution and drug usage at Motel 6.
Beech Grove and Indianapolis police surrounded the motel after officers traced suspect David Coffman of Brooklyn to the site. He allegedly carjacked a pickup and fled to the motel. Indianapolis SWAT members were called, the motel was evacuated and Coffman was found in a room under the bed.
Management has been given 20 days to take corrective action or face being ticketed for each public nuisance run made by police or fire personnel. Tickets can escalate to $2,500 plus court costs.
Walmart theft and fight
The Walmart incidents put "the municipality and all of us in a poor light," according to Buckley.
A broad-based public nuisance ordinance for environmental and property violations could be utilized by the city’s compliance division for penalties against the retail giant.
In the early morning of June 8, police chased Matthew Edmonds, who allegedly stole merchandise at the store. The chase was called off after officers followed departmental protocol, which deemed the pursuit as a high risk.
Edmonds continued driving at a high speed around 3 a.m. and crashed into two cars on the Southeastside, causing fatal injuries to Donna Niblock, 69, and serious injuries to two relatives in the same vehicle.
In a separate Walmart incident June 4 around 10:30 p.m., Amber Stephenson and Rebecca Mills got into a fight.
Mills, according to court affidavits, was shopping on a motorized cart when she hit an employee’s cart. Stephenson yelled at Mills and a fight ensued. Stephenson urged her 6-year-old son to hit Mills, and he struck her with a shampoo bottle while she was pinned to the floor.
Stephenson was charged late last week by authorities with neglect of an independent and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
A resident who made gestures with a gun and walked toward police was shot and killed by an officer June 8 at South Fourth Avenue and Main Street.
Police had been called to the scene, where they found James Johnson, 54, sitting on his porch with a gun. Police reported that he failed to put his gun down as ordered and pointed the weapon at police.
Johnson was shot by an officer, who was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Buckley commended the preventative action by all officers and stated that the incident was a "textbook example of confronting a subject who produced a gun and refused to take instruction from the police."
The mayor will offer an update on those events, compliance issues, city employee behavior and the latest news about the old St. Francis Hospital sites at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 806 Main St.
In a separate incident, an off-duty officer was arrested Sunday night on West Smith Valley Road in Johnson County.
Jill Liter, 40, was observed acting irrationally by a gasoline station employee who notified Johnson County Sheriff’s authorities. She refused to take a field sobriety test after telling deputies that she was a Beech Grove police officer.
Deputies arrested Liter on a preliminary charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. She was placed on administrative leave pending investigation. She was in her personal vehicle.