Deputy Floyd T. (Tommy) Settles, 26, was shot fatally when he responded to a silent alarm at the Cumberland branch of the American Fletcher National Bank & Trust Co. on the morning of Thursday, February 24, 1972.
The incident began shortly before 11:00 am when two men entered the bank and disarmed a Pinkerton Detective Agency guard. Both suspects wore ski masks, carried pistols, and carried out the robbery methodically.
After disarming the guard, one of the suspects announced, “This is a robbery. Nobody’s to get hurt. Everybody get behind the cages.” As the employees and customers did as they were told, one of the employees tripped a silent alarm that went off at the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. A radio message of the hold-up was dispatched. Deputy Settles volunteered for the run since he was probably the closest unit to the area.
As the customers and employees were forced to lie on the floor, the robbers began to tie their hands behind their backs. While taking money from the drawers and the vault, the robbers saw Deputy Settles approach and enter the bank.
The suspects went into the lobby of the bank and hid against the wall, out of Deputy Settles’ view. When he saw the robbers, Deputy Settles ordered, ‘Drop it, you’re covered.” The robbers responded with a spray of gunfire.
Taking one of the customers as hostage, the gunmen fled the scene in a four-door, dark blue Pontiac, exiting the bank from a side door. The car was stolen earlier in the day.
William Estes, a Cumberland deputy marshal, heard the bank alarm on his radio. When he arrived at the bank, he saw Deputy Settles enter the bank. As he was parking his car, Estes heard the shots. While the suspects fled, unseen, through the side door, Estes rushed inside the bank through the front door and found Settles slumped on the floor, bleeding heavily from a head wound. He ran back to his car and radioed in a Code 1.
Deputy Settles was given first aid at the scene and taken to Community Hospital where he died two hours later.
The two suspects, who were later identified as William E. Adams (46) and his second cousin, Billy Ray Adams (26), drove quickly from the scene with their hostage. A few minutes later, they slowed the car, telling the hostage to jump out. She did, flagging down a passing motorist. After explaining what had happened, she was driven back to the scene where she was reunited with her small child.
A massive dragnet was conducted on the eastside of Indianapolis. A number of cars answering the description of the getaway car were stopped and searched. The FBI ordered videotapes from the bank. Within hours of Deputy Settles’ death, thousands of dollars had been pledged for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killers. More than 100 officers from many branches of law enforcement painstakingly combed parking lots, apartment complexes, and private homes for clues.
The FBI arrested William Adams on Friday, February 25. Adams was charged in a Federal warrant with murder in the commission of a bank robbery, a crime that carries a possible death sentence. Adams admitted to being one of the two holdup men.
The search continued for the second suspect, Billy Ray Adams, who surrendered to an FBI agent and sheriff’s deputy at 7:30 pm on Monday, February 28, hours after Deputy Settles’ funeral.
Both Adamses were found guilty on September 16, 1972, and both were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Deputy Settles was a native of Indianapolis and a veteran of the Vietnam War, having served two tours of duty as a Marine. Joining the Marion County Sheriff’s Department on June 6, 1969, he was assigned to the jail division until the August prior to his death when he was transferred to road patrol. His interest in underwater diving led him to become a member of the MCSD’s SCUBA team.
Services were held in Harry W. Moore Arlington Chapel, with burial in Washington Park Cemetery. Hundreds of mourners filled the chapel’s five parlors to capacity. The Rev. Harrison C. Neal eulogized Deputy Settles as a man who “measured up so magnificently in the performance of his duties.”
From the chapel, the 2 ½ mile procession followed a circuitous route downtown on an unseasonably warm sunny winter’s day. Huddles of mourners waited at the roadside. As the hearse passed the county jail, a radio black-out lasting 10 minutes observed a silence in honor of Deputy Settles.
Divorced after a brief marriage, Deputy Settles was survived by his former wife and his parents, a brother and two sisters.
Sources: The Indianapolis Star, February 25 – 29, 1972. Marion County Sheriff’s Department, Turner Publishing Company, 2002, p. 40.