Family says SWAT didn’t need to kill suspect

The family of a Brown County man who was killed by a SWAT sniper after a five-hour standoff in a southwestern Bartholomew County farm field Wednesday says he would have surrendered if allowed one phone call to his wife.

Brenda Douglas, the mother of Martin Louis Douglas Jr., 30, of Nineveh, said her son had never hurt anyone in his life and was not a bad person.

But within the last six weeks of his life, he had become addicted to methamphetamine, which she believes was the main reason for his actions in the police pursuit from Brown County to Bartholomew County on Wednesday afternoon, and a contributing factor to why he did not surrender as SWAT team members asked.

Brenda said she followed her son, who was known as Marty, as he fled from police just before noon Wednesday after a family member, who she declined to identify, called officers to say he was suicidal and had weapons in his truck. Marty’s sister, Dorothy Scott, said she had called 911 out of concern for her brother’s welfare.

His mother was at the scene near the Deaver Road field during the standoff when Marty was shot and killed by the SWAT team after they said he moved to the bed of his truck to get an AR-15-style rifle after five hours of negotiating.

Marty had two handguns and the AR-15 in the truck when he was being pursued by the Indiana State Police, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Columbus Police Department, his mother said. At one point, when he stopped, he used the AR-15 to shoot at officers’ vehicles, striking three of them, before the pursuit continued, according to police. The family contends Marty did not shoot at officers.

Marty was under the influence of methamphetamine when the pursuit and standoff occurred, his mother said.

“He hadn’t been to bed for two weeks — he was tired — but he kept smoking meth,” she said.

She believes he was completely under the influence of the drug when police tried to stop him and that prior interactions with police might have had some influence on his responses to them.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Carey Huls said information about whether Douglas was under the influence of drugs is part of the investigation and will be determined through the autopsy and toxicology testing. The Decatur County coroner is handling that part of the investigation and did not answer telephone calls seeking further information.

At the time police were notified, Huls said they were only told the person they were trying to locate was “despondent.”

Years ago, in a Brown County murder investigation, Marty was questioned by the FBI after they said he resembled the description of a murder suspect, which included wearing a long black coat, something Marty used to like to wear, his mother said.

That interaction and others that followed over the years — his record shows misdemeanor traffic infractions over the years — created a distrust of law enforcement on Marty’s part, his mother said.

Marty’s mental status was further harmed by losing his third-shift job at a Bartholomew County manufacturer two weeks ago, his mother said. Marty had failed a drug test due to methamphetamine use and had asked his supervisor for help but was not offered any resources or assistance and was just told he was fired, she said. She has since learned he was introduced to methamphetamine by a co-worker, she said.

Brenda disputed the account by police officers that Marty had fired the AR-15 at three police officers’ vehicles, damaging them, and said she planned to ask to view this evidence by seeing the police cars and viewing their car cameras.

During the standoff, investigators said Douglas went into the bed of his pickup truck to retrieve an AR-15-style rifle from a box there when he was shot and killed by SWAT, Huls said.

Police believe one AR-15-style rifle was used to shoot at officers after he was stopped before the standoff, which resulted in the continuing pursuit, and he was getting another similar rifle out of the back of his truck when he was shot during the standoff, Huls said.

Marty’s mother expressed intense anger the SWAT team was unwilling to give Marty the requested phone call to his wife, which she said Marty told them he would surrender if they did.

ISP has no information about the request to speak with his wife, although Huls said Marty was on the phone with police during negotiations during the five-hour standoff.

Brenda said she was texting with her son throughout the standoff but was asked to stop by police because they said she was “irritating him.”

“My son asked for one phone call, and he would be here today if he had been allowed that one phone call (to his wife),” she said. “He would have surrendered. No one would listen to my son. They just wanted to end it.”

Marty was married and had three children, ages, 3, 8 and 9, his mother said. He liked to go fishing, take his children fishing and spend time with his family, according to his mother.

All Marty wanted to say in the phone call to his wife was that he loved her, that he was sorry and that he was going to go to jail, his mother said.

“But the police would not let him do that,” she said.

Police did allow Marty’s wife to record a video to send to him, but he didn’t want that, his mother said.

“He would never hurt nobody,” Brenda said of her youngest son. “He would never hurt his wife and kids.”

There was no reason to end the standoff after five hours, she said, adding even if it took hours and hours, they could have gotten her son to surrender.

“They just want to shoot to kill,” she said of the officers at the scene. “What would have been the harm of trying another four hours to get him to surrender. Why wouldn’t they let him talk to his wife?”

Douglas said she just wanted people to understand her son was a loving and caring person every day of his 30 years of life and that he was a loving, caring husband, son and father.

“No one needs to be trashed because he wanted to make one phone call,” she said of her son. “He knew he was going to jail. He just wanted to tell his wife how sorry he was. And now, he’ll never get to say that to any of us ever again.”