Adams Street homicides were sixth mass shooting in Indianapolis in 15 years

For Indianapolis residents who keep an eye on violence here, some heinous crimes have stuck out over the years.

Hamilton Avenue in 2006. Hovey Street a couple years later. A few others, like the four teenagers murdered near the start of 2020. 

And, now, Adams Street.

Investigators are still piecing together what exactly happened early Sunday that led to the fatal shooting of five people, including a pregnant woman, in the 3500 block of Adams Street. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested a juvenile, who has not been named, but little else has been shared publicly. 

The tragic killings marked the sixth mass shooting in Indianapolis over the last 15 years. They also might serve as a jolt for anyone who believed Indianapolis left the record-breaking streak of violence in the rearview mirror of 2020.  

“When you wake up on Sunday morning and you read The Star,” said Jim White, a retired state trooper and former public safety lecturer at IUPUI, “Well that sends a message: this city is dangerous, this city is out of control. And perception is reality, whether it is true or not.”

The homicides also were only the second mass shooting to happen in the United States this year, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press, USA TODAY and Northeastern University.

Mass shootings are defined as ones that kill at least four people, not counting any perpetrator. There have been nearly 350 since 2006, said James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University and co-author of “Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.”

The other mass shooting of 2021 came from a crime spree that took place mostly in public spaces in the Chicago area, including a parking garage and outside of an IHOP restaurant.

Most people tend to think of mass shootings as happening in public spaces like workplaces, churches or schools, Fox said. 

Perhaps that’s why the notorious Burger Chef murders, where a 20-year-old assistant manager and three teenagers were abducted from the Speedway restaurant and their bodies dumped in a Johnson County field, remain in the city’s consciousness more than 40 years after the crimes occurred.

“They scare people because they can happen to anyone at anytime at any place,” Fox said of public mass shootings. “But the public ones are relatively rare.”

They make up about 23% of the mass shootings since 2006, Fox said.

More common is what’s happened in Indianapolis over the past 15 years: groups of people, sometimes family, killed inside a home. The five mass shootings preceding the one on Adams Street all appeared to involve robberies and, at least in some instances, drugs.

For White, the retired trooper and public safety lecturer, what he remembers most about the Hovey Street murders are the victims: Two mothers killed alongside each of their young children.

“It sticks out in my mind just because it was so heinous,” White said. 

But he remembers something else about the 2008 mass shooting: There was a “coming-together” between the police department and the rest of the community to help solve murders. 

Following the tragedy on Adams Street, White is hopeful for the awakening of another partnership to solve more killings.

“Maybe, hopefully, this is a turning point for the city,” White said. 

Here’s what happened in the five other most recent mass shootings in Indianapolis.

Quadruple homicide at Carriage House East

Three young men and a young woman — ages 21, 21, 20 and 19 — were killed in an overnight shooting inside an east-side apartment on Feb. 5, 2020. Investigators said the shooting in the 4100 block of Shady Oak Drive, in Carriage House East, was the result of a robbery. One witness described seeing a pile of cash as several people were rolling dice inside. And after the shooting, police discovered an empty safe in the home. 

The shootings shocked the community. It wasn’t just that young people were robbed of their future, or that four people died at once — it was also because the brutal killings came amid a violent start to 2020. The unfortunate trend stretched throughout the rest of the tragic year, resulting in another record year of criminal homicides in Indianapolis. 

Four teenagers, including a juvenile, were later arrested in connection with the murders. Their cases in Marion Superior Court are pending.

Harding Street murders

Three women and a man were shot multiple times overnight March 24, 2015, in the 3100 block of North Harding Street. As investigators worked the crime scene inside, several neighbors started gathering near the police tape to support each other. Police said very little about the case at the time, and it lingered for years unsolved. Four years later came a breakthrough: Investigators had received new information. Like the circumstances of the shooting itself, police remained tight-lipped about what that information was, but they announced the arrest of 36-year-old Nicholas Dunn

The alleged shooter’s motive also remained unclear, though there was an apparent dispute over drugs. In court documents, investigators said Dunn held three women by gunpoint before luring the man — who was the son of one of the women — into the home. Then he shot them one by one, police said, with a semi-automatic rifle similar to an AR-15. Dunn’s case is still pending. The next hearing is scheduled for March.

Deadly drug robbery on Parker Avenue

On Feb. 20, 2014, an attempted robbery at a drug house escalated into a quadruple homicide. It was part of a string of killings where eight people died in 15 hours. As the community grappled with the onslaught of violence, then-Mayor Greg Ballard and then-IMPD Chief Rick Hite sought to emphasize that many who died had been linked to a criminal history

Investigators say the shooting at the drug house, in the 3400 block of South Parker Avenue, happened when a man, who previously worked as security for a drug dealer, decided to rob him. Four people were arrested in the quadruple homicide, but police pegged Kenneth “Cody” Rackemann as the triggerman. Rackemann is serving four consecutive life sentences without parole. 

Hovey Street murders

An attempted robbery at another rumored stash house led to the gruesome murder of two adults and two children. One gunman shot a 23-month-old child at point-blank range, and the youngest victim was just 5 months old

The Jan. 14, 2008, shooting, in a home in the 3200 block of Hovey Street, came as a shock for the community. As law enforcement began hunting for the suspects, former Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson said at the time: “There’s a special place in hell for you, and we’re going to see that you get there.”

Police arrested four people in connection with the homicides, including the alleged triggerman Ronald Davis, who was sentenced to 245 years in prison after pleading guilty to some charges. Davis has maintained that someone else pulled the trigger. 

Hamilton Avenue murders

The murders at a home in the 500 block of North Hamilton Avenue were the worst mass killing in Indianapolis history. Seven people were killed on June 1, 2006. Three were children, ages 11, 8 and 5.  

Investigators say that two men, one with a handgun and another with a semi-automatic rifle, stormed the home in the hopes of robbing a stash of cocaine and cash. But the two men, Desmond Turner and James Stewart, were mistaken about the house. Turner was given a life sentence; Stewart is serving 421 years. 

Contact IndyStar investigative reporter Ryan Martin at ryan.martin@indystar.com or by phone, Signal or WhatsApp at 317-500-4897. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter: @ryanmartin.