The Fred Sanders Case involved an Indianapolis parochial school teacher’s fatal shooting of an Indianapolis police officer. On the evening of August 14, 1988, Indianapolis Patrolman Matt John Faber responded to a complaint from a Forest Manor resident that a dog owned by Fred Sanders, a teacher at St. Luke Catholic School, was running loose in the neighborhood. When Faber arrived at Sanders’ home, an altercation occurred between the officer and Sanders.

Fred Sanders and Matt Faber, ca. 1990s Credit: IndyStar View Source

When other officers responded to a call for assistance, they joined Faber in forcing their way into the Sanders home. When the police entered, Sanders fired a shotgun at the officers, striking Faber in the back. The other policemen opened fire at Sanders and three shots hit him. Police beat Sanders after his arrest. Faber died from his wound nine days later.

Although originally charged with murder, Sanders finally pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter through an agreement reached with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. On March 3, 1989, the Marion County Superior Court sentenced Sanders to seven years in prison. Two police officers were indicted for beating Sanders, although only one was convicted by a jury. Several officers were disciplined by the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) for their roles in the Sanders case.

In May 1991, Sanders was released from prison when a judge allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea. The Indiana Supreme Court, however, reversed that decision in July 1992, and Sanders went back to prison in mid-1993 following an unsuccessful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and after denial of Sanders’ request for an early release.

The city’s media provided extensive coverage of the incident and the subsequent trials, which revealed a public sharply divided over the propriety of police actions. The case led to a reexamination within IPD of policies concerning the investigation of civilian complaints. A nine-member (six civilians, three IPD officers) Citizens Police Complaint Review Board emerged out of the reexamination of policies. 

The board never operated effectively due to a lack of budget, staff, and legal counsel. In December 1990, the City-Council removed the Board’s power to review incidents of police shootings. After numerous attempts to establish a Board to review police misconduct cases, the issue remained unresolved as late as 1994. 

In 2020, IMPD announced it would increase the number of civilians on a new board tasked with reviewing an officer’s use of excessive force. Plans for this board started in 2017 after the controversial shooting of Aaron Bailey in July 2017.

Revised March 2021
Public Safety

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