Judge changes ‘red flag’ process after FedEx Indianapolis shoot

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Marion County Attorney Ryan Mears speaks at a press conference following the mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.  - Jill Sheridan / WFYI

Marion County Attorney Ryan Mears speaks at a press conference following the mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.

Jill Sheridan / WFYI

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – All ‘red flag’ cases filed by Indianapolis police will now go to a judge after an Indiana prosecutor criticized for refusing to use the law to continue hearings that could have prevented a man from gaining access to the weapons used to kill eight people at a FedEx facility last month.

Judge Amy Jones, who oversees the filing of red flag cases in Marion County, issued new guidelines this week. All of these reports will now go directly to his courtroom instead of the prosecutor’s office. Indianapolis Police will have 48 hours to submit these documents, and two judges will then decide within 14 days whether to hold a hearing.

Indiana Red Flag law allows police to confiscate the firearms of a person deemed to be dangerous to themselves or to others. Prosecutors can then ask a court to prohibit that person from purchasing other firearms, although the law does not require prosecutors to request an alert hearing.

Jones’ new directives come after Marion County District Attorney Ryan Mears decided not to bring Brandon Scott Hole to a judge for a red flag hearing, even after his mother called the police last year to say that her son could attempt to die from “cop suicide”.

Police seized a pump shotgun from Hole, then 18, in March 2020. Mears said his office did not request a red flag hearing because the law did not give prosecutors enough time to definitively demonstrate Hole’s propensity to have suicidal thoughts. Mears specifically pointed to a change in the law in 2019 that requires courts to make a “good faith effort” to hold a hearing within 14 days.

Indianapolis Police said they never returned this rifle to Hole. Authorities said he used two “assault-type” rifles in the April 15 shooting before taking his own life.

Michael Leffler, spokesperson for the Marion County district attorney, said on Thursday that conversations about changes to the red flag filing process began before the shooting. He said the prosecutor’s office hopes the new guidelines “will improve the process.” A change involves a second deputy prosecutor reviewing red flag cases, which Leffler said “provides a diversity of opinion for these important decisions.”

Leffler said Mears will continue to seek legislative changes to the law. The prosecutor said the law has too many “loopholes,” including one that allows a person under investigation to buy a gun until a judge makes a final decision.

Indianapolis Police have reported at least 45 red flags to the DA’s office so far this year, according to Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder. Mears’ office said it had filed eight cases since January. All are awaiting decisions.

Casey Smith is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative Corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.


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