An Indianapolis homeowner who called police to report an attempted armed robbery at his house was apparently mistaken for the suspect and shot in the stomach by a responding officer, authorities said.
Carl Williams, a 48-year-old black man, called 911 early Tuesday morning and told the emergency dispatcher that an armed man tried to assault his wife outside their home, then stole her car keys and drove away in her car, according to a statement from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
When two officers arrived at the property on the city’s east side, the homeowner, who was also armed and apparently prepared to confront the carjacker, emerged from his home, a law enforcement official told ABC affiliate RTV6.
Apparently confusing him for the suspect, Christopher Mills, a white, nine-year veteran of the force, then shot Williams in the stomach, police said.
Williams was taken to a nearby hospital. Police said Wednesday morning that he was in serious but stable condition and was expected to survive.
“This is a tragic incident involving a homeowner attempting to protect his family and IMPD officers trying to do the same thing,” Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Assistant Chief Randal Taylor said during a news conference. “Of course our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the homeowner.”
In 911 audio released by police, the homeowner was heard telling a dispatcher that a man — armed with a rifle and wearing a red shirt and a hat — had tried to assault the caller’s wife. A woman sobbed in the background, and the caller repeatedly told the woman, “Calm down, baby; calm down.”
He told the dispatcher that the attacker stole the couple’s Nissan Sentra and that there was only one way out of the housing complex. Seconds later, he shouted, “Oh wait, is that him? Is that him?” — then they were disconnected.
Police also released heavily edited audio of the call between a police dispatcher and the officers who were responding to the scene.
“The complainant just shouted into the phone, ‘Is that him?’ and the line went dead,” the dispatcher said. “We’re going to try to get him back.”
At Tuesday’s news conference, Taylor said that when the officers pulled up, they saw a Nissan parked in the driveway with the lights on, so they took cover and ran the license plates, according to the Indianapolis Star. Police said in a statement that the “officers sought cover in an attempt to approach in a covert manner to investigate the vehicle.”
Taylor said that before the officers finished investigating, the garage door opened and the homeowner walked out with a gun. Police said Mills, one of the responding officers, shot Williams once in the stomach.
Moments later, an officer was heard radioing in, “Shots fired, shots fired!” A man in the background cried out in apparent pain.
It’s unclear whether Williams matched the description of the carjacker, whether he confronted the officers or whether the officers told him to drop his weapon. Taylor and Maj. Richard Riddle said at the news conference that authorities were not yet certain whether the officer gave Williams any such orders, according to the Indianapolis Star. In the dispatch audio, no conversation can be heard between Williams and the officers.
More than 600 people have been shot and killed by members of law enforcement this year, according to a Washington Post database. Fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota last month reignited nationwide outcry and calls for reform.
Since 2013, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has reported 61 police-involved shootings, 24 of them fatal. There have been four fatal police-involved shootings in Indianapolis this year, including one by a state law enforcement officer in IMPD’s jurisdiction.
During that same period over the past four years, 16 officers have been shot in Indianapolis and two of them died, police said.
Taylor told reporters that the recent shooting was “a tragic event with a number of circumstances that collided all at once,” and he expressed his deepest sympathies to the wounded homeowner and his family.
Authorities said the officer who shot Williams has been placed on administrative leave pending both a criminal and separate, independent internal investigation. The other responding officer, who is also white, did not fire his weapon, police said.
“Our homeowner, the individual who was trying his best protect himself and his wife from any other harm, was shot mistakenly by our officers. This incident occurred within a few seconds, and those judgment calls are made within a few split seconds,” Riddle told reporters, according to the Indianapolis Star.
“She was victimized,” he said, “and, unfortunately, now her husband was victimized as well.”
This story has been updated.