Police detained 55-year-old Phyllis Simmons for questioning at the scene. Several hours later they announced she had been arrested on a preliminary charge of murder.
“We believe this to be possibly a domestic-related incident,” said IMPD Sgt. Shane Foley. “We don’t believe it to be a random act.”
The homicide is Butler-Tarkington’s first since the murder of 19-year-old Malik Perry on Oct. 13, 2015.*
Perry’s death was one of four homicides in the span of a few months in 2015 – including the fatal shooting of 10-year-old Deshaun Swanson – which mobilized the Butler-Tarkington community to action. The neighborhood, along with representatives from IMPD, then-Mayor Greg Ballard’s office and the Ten Point Coalition engaged in neighborhood walks and worked to broker a truce between two rival gangs believed to be behind at least some of the spike in violence.
Documents unsealed in May 2017 as part of a federal indictment against alleged members of an Indianapolis gang called “The Mob” linked Perry’s death to a dispute over his share of drugs stolen from the Broad Ripple CVS.
IMPD North District Commander Josh Barker said he was troubled to hear of the homicide Wednesday, but that there was no reason to believe that it foreshadowed a repeat of 2015.
“It’s really unfortunate that there was a loss of life in the city of Indianapolis,” Barker said. “Obviously Butler-Tarkington piques our interest because of all the good work that’s been done there, and the success the neighborhood has had over the past two years. But, I think it’s important to realize this is not the type of violence that that neighborhood witnessed in 2015 with the gang violence and turf wars that were going on.”
As of Wednesday evening, the victim’s identity had not been released and no arrests had been announced in the case.
* (Author’s note: Dyani Saunders was killed in July 2017 in the 200 block of West 38th Street – which serves as the border between the Butler-Tarkington and Crown Hill neighborhoods – but the shooting was determined to be self-defense.)