Evansville, IN: Community Rallies Against Police Murder of Ricky Ard

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Police Kill Evansville Resident Ricky Ard Outside the Federal Building, 8/29

An Evansville police officer and a federal security officer employed by the U.S. Marshals shot and killed an Evansville man, 55-year-old Ricky Ard, outside the Winfield K. Benton Federal Building in downtown Evansville today.

Police allege that Ard smashed out the front windows of the federal building with a baseball bat and was complaining about “the government” during the confrontation. One witness, Andrew Wolfe, interviewed by the Evansville Courier and Press, said that the police tried to use a Taser on Ard, but it “didn’t work.” According to police, Ard was kicked out of the Federal Building yesterday after some sort of incident.

Of course, Ard cannot tell his own side of the story, and as of yet, no information is available from his family or loved ones that could shed light on this incident.

EPD spokesperson Sgt. Jason Cullum could not confirm whether or not the officer’s body camera was on during the shooting. If it was, the video will eventually become public record but could be withheld from the public during an investigation period. Video from surveillance cameras attached to the federal building has yet to be released.

According to the project Killed by Police, which tracks police murders, Ricky Ard is the 804th person killed by police in the U.S. in 2017. According to The Counted, a project that tracked police murders last year, police killed 1,092 people in the U.S. in 2016.

According to their press release, the Evansville Police Department claims the officers believed  “the man’s continued violent behavior posed an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death,” and that “the officers discharged their firearms to protect themselves.” They also stated, in a Tweet, that the officers had used “multiple de-escalation techniques” prior to shooting Ard.

But some Evansville residents have taken issue with this claim, wondering why two armed and trained officers could not resolve this incident without loss of life.

Jeremy Wilson, an Evansville resident, wrote in comments on Facebook: “They should of shot him in the shoulder or leg, he should still be alive. They are trained to aim before firing. My point is they killed a guy who had a bat! A bat! This should of been handled so different than just killing him… They should of went and picked up a couple Jim Town thugs and said ‘give you guys 20$ bucks to disarm him.’ And watch what they would of done with out killing him…if they would have done their job this guy would be alive right now getting mentally assessed and figuring out what he needs to get to the help he needs, not put down like a rabid dog.”

Another resident wondered why the officers had failed to properly deploy their Tasers: “Help me understand something…Officers are trained to protect and serve right? You can shoot a man 4 to 5 times with a gun but you can’t hit him once with a tazer? Yeah great job.”

As usual, the corporate media sprung into immediate action, helping the police justify the killing, parroting police talking points word-for-word, and working to vilify Ard. Article headlines on the Evansville Courier and Press website read  “Witness: Man was swinging bat before fatal shooting” and “EPD: Taser, talk failed before fatal police shooting at federal building.” And in a sentence so contrived as to be laughable were it not so common, 14 News mysteriously stated that “A man died after an officer-involved shooting.” How the officers were “involved” and how the man “died” are left to speculation.

Evansville Residents Hold Spontaneous Vigil for Ricky Ard, 8/29

Evansville residents gathered tonight outside the Winfield K. Denton Federal Building to hold a vigil for Ricky Ard who was murdered earlier today by police.

Approximately sixty people attended the spontaneous vigil, which was organized by word of mouth and social media. Although no centralized group took responsibility for organizing the event, the group appeared unified in their message that Ard’s murder was unjustified.

Attendees lit candles, wrote messages in chalk on the sidewalk, talked about their experiences with police brutality, and exchanged contact information throughout the night.

Those who knew Ard shared stories about him. A woman who said she had known Ard her whole life said that he was a good neighbor and a kind man who often helped out elderly people in their neighborhood. She also said that he was physically disabled and suffered from some kind of mental illness.

Another Evansville resident who recently retired from the military shared his experiences as an Iraq War veteran. He said that his “rules of engagement” during active combat in Iraq were more restrictive than those followed by the Evansville Police Department and that, had he been confronted by a man swinging a baseball bat in Iraq, he would have been expected to use non-lethal means of disarming him.

One woman demanded that police release body camera footage of the shooting and led the group in chanting “show me the body cam!”

Those present at the vigil discussed meeting up tomorrow, Wednesday, August 30, at 11 a.m. outside the federal building for a rally in protest of Ricky Ard’s murder.

Rally for Ricky Ard Outside the Federal Building, 8/30

Around 11 a.m., about a dozen people gathered outside the Winfield K. Benton Federal Building in downtown Evansville to stand up against the police killing of 55-year-old Evansville native Ricky Ard, who had been fatally shot there twenty-four hours before.

One protester stated that his goal was to call attention to Ard’s killing and to take a strong stand against the police so that they think twice in the future before killing more people.

Ard was shot and killed by police yesterday, August 29, 2017, outside of the federal building by an Evansville police officer who has been identified as Kenny Dutschke and a federal security officer employed by the U.S. Marshals who has yet to be identified. Surveillance cameras on site show that Ard had a baseball bat and had smashed out the front windows of the federal building.

Early this morning, workers eliminated the elaborate memorial that Evansville residents had created the night before outside the building, washing away chalk from the public sidewalk and throwing away posters, candles and stuffed animals left by mourners.

As people began to re-create the memorial at the rally, a federal employee who refused to identify himself aggressively confronted those chalking on the small concrete wall at the edge of the sidewalk, claiming that it is federal property. The following text was handed out at the event by Evansville residents who wished to remain anonymous. The text was entitled “Some Thoughts on the Police Murder of Ricky Ard.” It is reproduced here in full:

No matter how much investigating is done by police, one side of the story will always be excluded from the narrative… and that is the personal account of Ricky Ard, who was murdered in cold blood by federal agents and the Evansville Police Department.

The suggestion that the feds and the EPD “did all they could“ is inconsistent with history.

When Ammon Bundy and about 30 armed men rammed their ATVs into vehicles owned by the federal government, seized federally-owned land, and pulled assault rifles on federal agents, the federal government engaged in a month long negotiation period, and have since given them a trial by jury in a court of law. When a white supremacist mowed down several dozen protesters with his car in Charlottesville just last week, severely injuring nine and immediately killing one, the suspect was arrested and is currently awaiting trial. Even Timothy McVeigh, who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring 100, received a trial, and was not shot on sight, despite having a firearm in his possession.

Ricky Ard was given no such due process… he killed no one, and he brandished no gun, and yet the federal authorities and the police department decided to kill him by shooting him 7 times. If he was middle or upper class and white, like the those far more dangerous men mentioned, there is no doubt in my mind that he would be here to defend himself today.

At age 55, Ricky Ard was a senior… at a time when he should’ve been retiring and enjoying his life, he was upset about the material conditions he found himself in and was frustrated with his mistreatment by the federal government.

While we may never know Ricky’s exact political grievances, it is telling that he chose the federal building to air them — a building that houses a federal courthouse and an FBI headquarters. The same courts that in the 1857 Dred Scott case claimed Black Americans were inferior, and in modern times would have us believe that the lives of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling and so many others are inferior, too. It is in this building that the same FBI that has spent much of its existence spying on, infiltrating, and silencing black social movements – from Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense to Black Lives Matter. A building that is presided over by a billionaire president, whose first step on the national stage was the front page of an October 1973 issue of the New York Times, under the headline “Major Landlord Under Fire for Anti-Black Bias”, a president who just a week before this deadly shooting happened, made it easier for assault weapons from Afghanistan and Iraq to be funneled to police departments. As a society, we are to the point of living under military occupation, and poor and working class black people in this country are bearing the brunt of this state violence and repression.

It must be remembered that the issue is broader than Ricky Ard’s presumed guilt or innocence. It is an indictment of a culture in which police protect each other at all costs, regardless of guilt or innocence. The media, city officials, and some bystanders have spent too much time asking whether Ricky Ard was guilty of the allegations made towards him, whether he wielded a bat or broke a window or spoke out against the government or defended himself when charged by men with guns, tasers, and an arsenal of laws behind them. There is a more critical question at hand: is there any scenario in history which the police and the federal government have come forward willingly to admit their wrongdoing? Has the Evansville Police Department ever, in its 154 years of existence, willingly done so? Has the federal government in its 241 years of existence willingly done so? Are we, as a community capable of rational thinking, to believe that in all these years the Evansville Police Department has existed, that they have never unnecessarily killed a single person? Because if we were to take their word at face value… that’s what they would have us believe.

We want justice in an unjust system.

PDF Here.

“We will miss his smile, his laughter, and his spirit”: A Statement from Ricky Ard’s Family, 8/31

The following statement was provided to Where the River Frowns by Shannon, Ricky Ard’s niece:

The Ard family would like to express our deepest gratitude to the community for the heartfelt outpouring of sympathy. We are very much appreciative of all the expressions of support.

As anyone can imagine, losing a loved one unexpectedly is incredibly difficult, and even more so under the circumstances that we lost our brother, son, uncle and friend, Ricky.

Ricky had a long, documented history of mental illness. As we grieve and continue to process the events of Ricky’s death, we cannot help but to consider how his mental illness impacted the events as they unfolded. We know that to the officers and bystanders Ricky was seemingly violent, but to us he was in dire need of medical attention. Regrettably, we cannot change the events and the outcome of what transpired on Tuesday.

Ricky had never been charged with a crime of violence, which adds to our grief.

We as a family sought help for Ricky, but were restricted from doing so due to the current mental health laws for adults.

In conclusion, we pray that this tragic situation will encourage everyone to get educated on mental health. Learn how to identify the signs and symptoms; learn how to provide care to those who need it. We can only hope other Evansville citizens, and citizens nationwide, will have access to prompt and continuous and comprehensive mental health treatment throughout their lifetime.

We will miss his smile, his laughter, and his spirit. Please continue to pray for the Ard Family and all those who loved Ricky. Please consider our family during this time and respect our privacy as we continue to grieve.

With deep sadness,
The Ard Family


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Where the River Frowns

Where the River Frowns features anti-establishment news, analysis and culture from Evansville, Indiana and the tri-state region. We highlight the stories, voices and innovations of those on the margins—the ones who come home tired from working a shitty job and still find the energy to create something beautiful. The ones who find their back against the wall and still find creative and liberatory ways to respond or fight back against the desolate world we inhabit.