Judges’ shootings: What happened, and what happens next?

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Indiana Lawyer on 5/15/2019

Two Clark County judges are recovering from gunshot wounds in Indianapolis after being shot in downtown Indianapolis earlier this month. Meanwhile, two men accused in the shooting have been released from their bonds after the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges.

Clark Circuit Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs sustained injuries during an early-morning shooting on May 1. The shooting happened at about 3:30 a.m. in the parking lot of a downtown Indianapolis White Castle restaurant.

Indianapolis police later arrested 41-year-old Brandon Kaiser and 23-year-old Alfredo Vazquez in connection with the shootings. However, at a May 10 court hearing, both men were released as to their bonds after the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office announced it would not file charges “at this time.”

Few details are known about the shootings, as little information has been released to the public and there are no public court records because charges were not filed. However, Indianapolis police say there is no evidence the judges were targeted because of their profession.

Here’s a recap of what we know now, and what could happen next:

The shooting

Adams and Jacobs were in Indianapolis for the Spring Judicial Conference hosted by the Indiana Supreme Court. The conference, which hosts judges from across the state, was scheduled to begin just hours after the shooting occurred.

Surveillance footage from a camera looking into the parking lot of the White Castle, located at 55 W. South St., shows Adams and Jacobs standing on a sidewalk in the parking lot of the restaurant with a woman. Adams is wearing a red shirt, Jacobs is wearing a black-and-white shirt and the woman is wearing black.

An SUV appears from behind the trio and pulls into the parking lot. Once parked, two men, later identified as Kaiser and Vazquez, exit the vehicle. Vazquez, who was driving, is dressed in all black, while Kaiser is wearing dark pants and a light shirt. Kaiser steps out of the vehicle with a bottle in his hand and later puts the bottle in his back pocket.

The two judges and woman are talking animatedly with one another as the SUV pulls in and the suspected shooters exit. The end of the video shows Vazquez and Kaiser walking toward the trio, who seem to turn around and acknowledge the two men’s presence.

The video released to the public cuts off before the two groups of people interact. However, the Indianapolis Star has reported that a fight broke out between the four men before Kaiser allegedly shot Adams once in the stomach.

Jacobs is then shot once in the chest while being held by Vazquez, according to The Star. Vazquez then holds Jacobs down while Kaiser holds a gun to the center of his chest and shoots him again, The Star reported.

Indianapolis police have said the shooting happened as a result of an altercation between the judges and the shooters. There have also been reports of a fourth person with the judges and woman, though no other person is seen on the video.

The aftermath

News of the shooting broke around 9 a.m. May 1, and shortly thereafter, the Indiana Supreme Court released a statement saying Chief Justice Loretta Rush had received “terrible news” of the judges’ shootings. Andrews and Jacobs were identified as the victims at about 11 a.m., when the court announced that the former was in stable condition and the latter was in critical condition.

According to the Supreme Court, Rush visited with the judges’ families on the morning of May 1. Both judges, who have served since their 2014 elections, are married with three children, the court said.

Andrews was believed to be admitted at IU Health Methodist while Jacobs was believed to be at Eskenazi Health. However, neither hospital would confirm if either judge was treated by their medical staff.

According to the Supreme Court, Jacobs underwent surgery on May 2 and improved to serious but stable condition. By May 3, he was in stable condition.

Meanwhile, police released the surveillance footage on May 3 and asked for the public’s help in identifying the two men in the SUV. Kaiser and Vazquez were arrested on May 7 and appeared for an advisement of rights hearing on May 8, which was continued to May 10.

The reactions

As news of the shooting spread on May 1, statements of shock and condolences flooded in. Many of those statements came from members of the Indiana legal community, including Rush.

The Clark County Bar Association also released a statement, saying it has a tight-knit legal community where the judges are highly respected.

“Our local legal community is shocked by what took place,” Clark County Bar Association President Anna Murray told Indiana Lawyer. “We are very concerned for their health and well-being. We all hope they have a full recovery.”

Indiana State Bar Association President Todd Spurgeon, who practices law in nearby New Albany, said he has appeared before both judges many times and considers them friends.

“Although our justice system is generally adversarial by nature, we are one legal community, and at times like this we come together to lift up our colleagues and their families,” Spurgeon said.

Clark County Presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael released statements about the judges’ conditions, though neither she nor Rush spoke directly with the press. Carmichael seemed to try to curb rumors that the judges had been at the nearby Red Garter Gentleman’s Club just before the shooting. Indianapolis police initially reported that the judges were at the Red Garter, but later retracted that statement.

Members of the broader Clark County community also came together to support the wounded judges, gathering at a prayer vigil in Jeffersonville, where the judges hold court. Local Rev. Nancy Woodworth-Hill of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church organized the vigil, telling Indiana Lawyer that about 160 people gathered to light candles, sing and pray.

“I do know the community has great love and affection for these two judges, and they showed up,” Woodworth-Hill said.

The legal consequences

Marion County Jail records show that Kaiser was booked on suspicion of four charges, including Level 1 felony attempted murder, Level 3 felony aggravated battery, Level 5 felony battery and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license, while Vazquez was facing a Level 5 felony charge of assisting a criminal. Those charges indicate Kaiser was the main shooter, though police have not publicly confirmed that.

Just minutes before a court hearing was set to begin on May 10, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office announced its decision not to charge the suspected shooters.

“We have received the results of the investigation conducted to date, including video retrieved from surveillance cameras,” Prosecutor Terry Curry said in a statement. “At this time, we have determined that additional investigation must be completed before we can make a charging decision in this matter.”

Later that afternoon, Marion Superior Judge Shatrese Flowers released both men as to their bonds — $200,000 for Kaiser and $60,000 for Vazquez . Earlier in the week, Vazquez’s bond had been delayed seven days as a result of his probation for a recent operating while intoxicated conviction.

As Flowers told the defendants they would be released, Kaiser, who was handcuffed, used both hands to make the sign of the cross and thanked the judge. Vazquez did not have any visible reaction other than thanking the judge.

Jail records show Kaiser was released at 9:02 p.m. May 10, while Vazquez was in custody as of IL deadline Monday.

What’s next?

It’s unclear where the shooting case goes from here. Curry’s statement implies that charges could be filed in the future, though his office declined to provide any additional details.

Meanwhile, as of May 10, both judges were still recovering in Indianapolis. Larry Wilder, a Jeffersonville attorney acting as their spokesman, told Indiana Lawyer neither judge was in a hurry to be released from treatment.

“They continue to improve and are looking forward to that time which their doctors feel they are ready to come home,” Wilder wrote in an email. “…They each understand that it is important to defer to their medical professionals.”

Wilder did not provide an update on the judges’ by IL deadline.

Clark County courts were closed May 1 because of the shooting but reopened the next day. On May 9, the Indiana Supreme Court appointed Senior Judge Steven M. Fleece to preside over Clark Circuit Court 1 and Senior Judge Kenneth L. Lopp to preside over Clark Circuit Court 2, replacing Andrews and Jacobs, respectively.

Clark County traditionally has one of the busiest dockets in Indiana. In 2018, the southern Indiana county had eight regularly assigned judicial officers but needed 10.43, according to the 2018 Weighted Caseload Measures.

Fleece began his term as judge pro tempore on May 13, while Lopp began his term on May 14.