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Indianapolis police officer charged with murder

December 13, 1997 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Police didn’t have to look far to find a suspect in the latest of this year’s record number of murders in Indianapolis and surrounding Marion County.

He was one of their own.

Patrolman Myron A. Powell, 35, a seven-year Indianapolis Police Department veteran with a history of discipline problems, was charged with murder Friday in the shooting death of a man killed at his home. Inside, authorities found a kilogram of cocaine and $22,000 in cash.

``I’m saddened by the fact that someone was murdered. I was sickened when I learned an Indianapolis police officer might be involved,″ Police Chief Michael Zunk said.

The police department in Indiana’s capital and largest city, population 730,000, has been stung by recent controversies.

Four off-duty officers were indicted after a drunken brawl in downtown Indianapolis in August 1996, when witnesses said they officers yelled racial and sexual insults. Their trials ended in a hung jury in October, and a settlement was reached last month to avert a second trial.

In March, one of those officers and his brother, also an officer, got into a fight with a couple they met at a tavern when they were off duty.

And then came Thursday’s fatal shooting of D. Courtney Hairston, 29, and the alleged involvement of Powell.

Hairston was killed after two men came to his door claiming to be police officers, Marion County Sheriff Jack Cottey said. A teen-age boy was wounded by gunfire and a woman stabbed in the attack. Their names were not released.

Powell went off duty 45 minutes before the shooting. Police have not said whether the drugs found at the scene were involved in the shooting, nor have they identified the second man, who is believed to have pulled the trigger.

Investigators believe Powell knocked on the door, identified himself as a police officer and said he was there to search the house, said Lt. Tim Horty, a police spokesman. Powell identified himself as ``Thompson″ and said a search warrant was on the way.

Powell’s arrest comes as authorities here cope with a record number of homicides.

There have been 125 this year in the city police’s jurisdiction, which includes downtown and some of the roughest parts of the city; Hairston’s was the 25th elsewhere in the county. The previous records were 120 in the city last year and 22 in the county, in 1989.

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Zunk and Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who leads the unified city-county government, blame drugs for the high numbers. They have announced measures to stop them, including tighter cooperation between city police and the sheriff’s department.

Investigators told The Indianapolis Star that a key clue was finding Powell’s name on scraps of paper inside the apartment where the killing took place. The injured woman identified Powell from photographs, Cottey said.

Powell was being held without bond in the Marion County Jail, and his car and police equipment were seized. In addition to penalties from the criminal case, he faces suspension and possible termination.

Powell has been involved in eight disciplinary actions in the past seven years and has been suspended for a total of 16 days, Horty said.

Hairston had an arrest record on drug dealing charges in Michigan City in 1992 and served four years of a six-year sentence, Cottey said.