Detective Sergeant Jack R. Ohrberg, 44, was killed early Thursday, December 11, 1980, as he tried to serve high risk warrants on several gang members at 3544 North Oxford Street.
Sergeant Ohrberg, a homicide investigator, was following up on the investigation into the August 4 robbery and slaying of a Brink's Guard at the K-Mart store at 4150 N. Keystone Avenue. Re-examining leads on the Brink's case, Sergeant Ohrberg and his partner, William H. Burgess, began to develop information linking it with a bank robbery of the American Fletcher National Bank branch at 2955 Northwestern Avenue on February 6. The detectives compared notes with the FBI and concluded they had enough information to make arrests on the bank robbery.
A probable cause hearing on the bank robbery was held at about 4:00 pm on the prior day in Municipal Court 4 before Judge Roy Jones. Jones said Sergeant Ohrberg was very concerned about the arrests and wanted to keep everything quite. He wanted to serve the warrants himself; he knew they were dangerous.
Thursday morning, an hour or so before the raids to serve the warrants, Sergeant Ohrberg and the other policemen who were to participate in the arrests met in the homicide office. Three teams of four policemen simultaneously went to three locations. One team, led by Burgess, went to one accomplice's residence and arrested her without trouble. Lt. James Strode led the second team to the 3300 block of Meadows Court where they expected to find two of the subjects -- Earl and Gregory Resnover.
The apartment was empty. What the detectives hadn't expected was that the Resnovers would be with another subject, Tommie J. Smith, at a one-story brick duplex on Oxford Street.
Sergeant Ohrberg went to the Oxford Street house with five other policemen. About 5:30 am, while some of the arrest team watched the back of the house, Sergeant Ohrberg and Patrol Officer William J. Foreman, approached the front door. Sergeant Ohrberg knocked loudly on the door several times, and when no answer was heard, he sent a patrol officer to a neighboring house to ask if the Smith residence was occupied.
When the neighbor said he thought someone was home, Sergeant Ohrberg knocked again, pounding on the door as he announced that the police were there and the house was surrounded. When no sound was heard, Sergeant Ohrberg shouted that he was going to kick the door down. He also spoke those words into his police radio transmitter, alerting the other police officers.
When he kicked the door, it only opened 8 to 10 inches, as if something was barring the way. As Sergeant Ohrberg tried to force his way in, two shots rang out. Foreman dropped to the ground and in the dark heard Sergeant Ohrberg shout, "Oh, no. I've been hit. Get help." One man -- believed to be Smith -- leaned out the door and raked the wounded detective with several blasts from an automatic military rifle.
The other officers at the scene returned fire. They then took cover as the assailant retreated into the house. Police called for assistance of the SWAT team.
Subjects in side the residence called out that they wanted to talk and that they had women inside and wanted them to be allowed out first. Police rejected these requests, insisting that all those inside surrender and that the weapons be thrown out. Shortly, several guns were tossed out the door; then the Resnovers exited, followed by two women.
Tommie L. Smith remained in the house. Shortly before 8:00 am, SWAT fired 12 tear gas canisters into the house, with one landing on the couch, setting it on fire. SWAT officers then stormed the house, finding Smith laying on the living room floor in a pool of blood, under a brown leather coat. Smith was removed from the house on a stretcher to an ambulance and taken to hospital.
In all, five subjects were arrested. Gregory Resnover was electrocuted on December 8, 1994. Tommie Smith was executed by lethal injection in July 1996.
Born at Brooklyn, New York, Sergeant Ohrberg lived in Indianapolis 38 years. He joined the police department in 1961.
A grandfather of one and father of four,Sergeant Ohrberg was survived by his wife, Diana. Memorial services were held in Shirley Brothers Irving Hill Chapel. In keeping with Sergeant Ohrberg's stated wishes, there was no funeral procession past IPD headquarters. His ashes were scattered in Brown County, Indiana, and the Jacksonville Beach, Florida, shipyard.
Sidewalk bricks to honor the memory of Sergeant Ohrberg were placed on each of the four spokes leading to Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis.
Sources: Indianapolis Star, December 12 - 13, 1980; Indiana State Archives, Past Executions