Mayor plans city-funded witness protection program

(WISH Photo/TimMcNicholas)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)—Mayor Joe Hogsett said Tuesday the city will put $300,000 toward a witness protection program if the city council approves the funds.

The goal is to encourage witnesses to help with police investigations and trials. Witnesses often don’t speak to police out of fear of retaliation.

DeJuan Williams, for example, was shot and killed in March of 2016 and police have not found the killer.

“I just wish somebody would say something because my son needs justice,” Williams’ mother, Jerri McReynolds said.

Williams, a father of five, was at a home with four friends when someone knocked on the door. Four people were on the other side and one of them shot him. When police were looking for clues, someone broke into Williams’ home blocks away.

“They need to get all of them that get out here hurting, killing, robbing people,” Williams’ father, Lawrence McReynolds said. “They need to catch up with them and get them off the streets.”

Councilman and pastor Stephen Clay called the mayor’s plan a “significant first step.” Clay met with the mayor Tuesday morning to discuss the plan.

The mayor and Clay won’t say exactly how the plan would work, but Clay said the county prosecutor is on board.

“He understands the importance of this,” Clay said. “We’ll work on the mechanics of it and drill into the details a little later on. But it’s important first of all to get the money to get it started.”

A statement from the mayor said the $300,000 “does not impact the balanced 2018 city budget and will require Council approval.” The mayor’s team said their expected 2017 revenue recently increased, creating extra funds.

Hogsett is calling on public safety leaders to help develop the plan in the weeks ahead.

“So maybe somebody will come forward,” Jerri McReynolds said.

“That would make my day,” Lawrence McReynolds added. “I would be the happiest man in the world. Me and my wife.”

Councilman Clay said he doesn’t anticipate witnesses being relocated or getting new identities. He also emphasized he’s not expecting any of the money to be used for cash bailouts in exchange for testimony.