Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Matthew Baker, 24, was killed in a gun battle on Monday, September 17, 2001, that began during a chase and ended in a near–north side neighborhood. Prior to the shooting, Deputy Baker had been dispatched on a call to 46th Street and Emerson Avenue. While en route to the scene, he encountered a suspicious vehicle containing four young men and attempted to make a traffic stop of the vehicle at 52nd Street and Keystone Avenue at 7:19 pm. The driver of the 1983 Chevrolet Monte Carlo refused to stop, and a chase followed.
One of the four men jumped out of the car before the shooting started. As the car took off, a second suspect, later confessed to be Michael Shannon, fired an assault rifle through the back windshield of the car. The bullets shattered Deputy Baker’s windshield and struck his car’s engine. Under attack, Deputy Baker continued in pursuit, remaining calm, but issuing a radio call for assistance under the highest priority, saying “I’ve got glass in my face. I think I’m all right.”
Deputy Lawrence Conley soon joined the pursuit, taking the lead, with Deputy Baker close behind. The pursuit turned from Keystone Avenue onto 32nd Street and north from 32nd into a residential area, onto Brouse Avenue. Residents in the area said shots were being fired as the cars raced through the neighborhood. Shannon emptied the assault rifle’s clip, reloaded, and fired again.
A witness told police she saw the Monte Carlo slow down after the turn onto Brouse Avenue, as if waiting for the pursuing squad cars to round the corner. Deputy Conley, in the first patrol car, turned wide. Deputy Baker turned sharp right into the field of fire, and was struck in the head by a shot from the assault rifle.
Deputy Baker’s car struck Deputy Conley’s car from behind and travelled through the yards of two homes, coming to a stop against a third. IPD Sergeant Michael Duke rushed to the car and went to Deputy Baker who was bleeding from the fatal head wound. Duke comforted the young deputy, reflecting later, “I served a purpose, and I hope I did OK.”
The suspect car crashed into the back of a house at 3309 N. Baltimore Avenue, and the suspects scattered on foot.
By about 8:30 pm, dozens of squad cars from the Sheriff’s Department, the Indianapolis Police Department, the Indiana State Police, and other agencies had converged in the area around the 3300 block of Baltimore Avenue. A State Police helicopter was in the air to assist in the search, but was forced to break off the search when shots were fired at it. Armored cars and SWAT officers were also called to the scene. Police ordered nearby residents into their homes and by-standers outside a two block perimeter. Hundreds of people milled in the streets outside that perimeter.
The vehicle’s driver, Allen Dumperth, and Shannon both were armed with high-powered assault rifles and continued their gunfire. They sustained that fire through the entire chase, until Shannon ran out of ammunition and Dumperth was shot and killed by members of the MCSD SWAT unit in a wooded area along Baltimore Avenue at about 3:30 Tuesday morning after pointing his weapon at the officers.
Shannon eluded police for several additional hours, having been aided by a local resident, Anthony Carter, who let him stay in his home overnight. Shannon was apprehended at 6:30 am on Tuesday as Carter tried to drive him out of the area.
The two other suspects in the car were also captured and arrested, but were found not to have been directly involved in the shooting. Charges against them were dismissed.
Court documents indicate that Dumperth, 20, had become involved with drugs at the age of 14 and dabbled in Satanism. He had a juvenile record and had left high school before graduating. He had been on probation after serving a year and five months in prison on a robbery conviction. Shannon also had a juvenile record and had left high school before graduating. He was listed by the Army as a deserter.
In addition to the two assault rifles, Dumperth’s car was found to contain three ammunition magazines, smoke bombs, a bandoleer-style utility vest, a gas mask, binoculars, a compass and camouflage pants with shotgun shells in the pocket.
Michael Shannon was charged with murder, attempted murder, and resisting arrest. On the morning of his capital murder trial in February 2003, he admitted to firing the assault rifle round that killed Deputy Baker and pleaded guilty to the charges. On March 20, 2003, he was sentenced to life without parole for Deputy Baker’s murder and consecutive 50-year sentences for the attempted murders of Deputy Lawrence Conley and by-stander John Hagan, who survived, partially paralyzed, from a bullet to the head. In pleading guilty, Shannon waived his right to appeal.
Anthony Carter was arrested for his involvement in helping Shannon evade police after the shooting. In a hearing in May 2002, he pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal and was sentenced to two years in prison and two years’ probation.
Additionally, Joshua Meadows was arrested for supplying the assault rifles used by Dumperth and Shannon. The investigation determined Meadows had purchased the SKS and AK-47 rifles for Dumperth, a convicted robber who could not legally purchase them himself. Found guilty after 2-1/2 hours of jury deliberation, he received the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison on the two counts.
A sergeant with the IUPUI Police Department, Deputy Baker’s father, Jerry, was among the officers who answered the Code 1 call on September 17. He arrived to see his son’s battered squad car and an ambulance pull away from the scene. Speaking of his son, he said: “He never, ever, ever wanted to do anything else.” Deputy Baker had dreamed of being a law enforcement officer since he was 5. His childhood bed was adorned with spinning red and blue lights salvaged from a wrecked squad car. Family photos capture a 10-year old child in a blue police jumpsuit, a present from his grandmother.
Deputy Baker had worked for the Sheriff’s Department in various capacities for six years, and became a merit deputy in 1999. He was known for his professionalism and was described as kind, courteous, conscientious, intelligent, and 100-percent dedicated. The personnel file documenting his brief career contained numerous commendations.
Services for Deputy Baker were held in St. Luke United Methodist Church. The funeral procession was 7-1/2 miles long, from 86th Street to downtown. Judges closed their courtrooms to go outside to pay their respects. The streets were lined with men, women and children who waved flags and wept. Burial was in Crown Hill Cemetery.
Deputy Baker was posthumously honored as the 2001 Deputy of the Year at the 34th Annual Police, Deputy Sheriff, and Fire Recognition awards. He was also awarded a Medal of Honor and Purple Heart by Sheriff Jack Cottey.
Deputy Baker would have turned 25 on September 25, a week after the incident.
Since Deputy Baker's death his family has worked to keep his legacy and that of all fallen officers alive. They established the Jason M Baker Foundation to provided educational assistance to young people pursuing an education in the public safety field. Funds are raised through sponsorship, donations and participation in the Jason M Baker 5k run and family stroll held at Crown Hill Cemetery each September. Information and registration information can be found at www.heroesofpublicsafety.org.
Sources: The Indianapolis Star, September 18-22, 2001; October 1, 2001; November 15, 2001; March 5, 2002; April 11, 19, 26, 2002; May 29, 2002; September 8 and 16, 2002; November 3, 2002; February 11, 14, 19, and 23 and March 20, 2003