Deputy Gerald L. Morris (28) and Deputy Terry L. Baker (28) were killed in an exchange of gunfire that occurred when they interrupted an armed robbery of the Bargain Barrel Clothing Store at 5929 East 82nd Street on Friday, January 2, 1981.
A gunman, later identified as James I. Coleman (31), entered the store at about 6:15 pm, announcing a hold-up. He attempted to force the store’s female co-owner into a back-room. As she ran from the store, Coleman chased her and began scuffling with her in the parking lot.
Dragging the owner back into the store, Coleman forced her into the backroom with another employee, telling a man first believed to have been a customer, but later identified as Sanford Marshall, an accomplice, to tie them up. Five men who had been in an adjacent store and who had come to owner’s aid during the scuffle were also taken at gunpoint.
A woman passing the store called police after looking inside and seeing a woman and a man scuffling.
Deputy Terry Baker was working an off-duty job with the Shorewood Corp., patrolling the area surrounding Geist Reservoir. On dinner break, he had driven the marked Shorewood car to eat at a nearby sandwich shop. After purchasing and eating a sandwich there, he heard the radio dispatch of a man and woman struggling in the parking lot outside the clothing store. Baker radioed in at 6:21 pm, “I am on the scene at the Bargain Barrel.”
Deputy Baker, who was in civilian clothing, drove the private security firm’s car in front of the store and ran inside. A buzzer sounded as he entered and walked to the rear of the store. Quickly seeing he was at the scene of a robbery in progress, rather than a domestic disturbance, he attempted to bluff his way out. As he turned to leave, Deputy Baker was shot by Coleman.
Deputy Baker was struck by two bullets and fell to the floor, mortally wounded. Coleman stood over his body and shot him again in the chest. He then grabbed the fallen deputy’s revolver.
Within moments, Deputy Gerald L. Morris, in uniform and working off-duty for the Castleton Security Patrol, reached the scene. Crouching down, he opened the front door of the store with his service weapon drawn. He was met by gunfire from Coleman. Deputy Morris fired at least two shots at Coleman as he ran between clothes racks in the store, with at least one of the shots hitting Coleman. Coleman returned fire, striking Deputy Morris in the shoulder.
Wounded, Deputy Morris staggered to his car on the parking lot to radio in a Code 1 – Officer Needs Help. As he neared his car, Deputy Morris was surprised by Coleman who had picked up Deputy Baker’s revolver. Deputy Morris and Coleman again exchanged shots as they stood at opposite sides of the patrol car. Bullets fired by Deputy Morris bounced off the trunk lid and struck Coleman in the stomach. Another bullet from Coleman’s gun hit Deputy Morris in the throat.
The next deputies to arrive on the scene found Coleman, injured, in the parking lot. They cuffed him, and he was transported to hospital.
Deputy Baker was pronounced dead at the scene of a bullet wound to the back of the head. Deputy Morris died later in St. Vincent Hospital of a wound in the throat.
James Coleman also died in St. Vincent. Found on his body was a case continuance card issued from Municipal Court Room 6. He had been charged with first-degree murder in July 1973, pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He was placed on parole in November 1976 after serving one year of the one-to-ten year sentence. While on parole from the 1973 charge, he was arrested November 22, 1980, for violation of the Controlled Substance Act. He was free on bond when he murdered Deputy Baker and Deputy Morris.
Sanford Roy Marshall (39), Coleman’s accomplice in the robbery, was apprehended in Tupelo, Mississippi across from the bus station on Saturday, January 3. 1981. Coleman and Marshall had been cellmates at the federal prison at Terre Haute, Indiana. Marshall was returned to Indianapolis to face trial for murder, robbery, and confinement in June 1981. He was convicted on numerous counts, and received a 90-year sentence. In January 1986, he escaped from the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City through the steam tunnels. He was apprehended several days later by police surrounding a camping trailer parked behind a home in northeast Indianapolis.
Deputy Morris was single. He had been a deputy for two years, having been appointed on December 8, 1978. He was assigned to the jail division. He had been working on his days off as a road deputy, learning the techniques of street patrol while spending his initial assignment in the jail.
Final tribute was made to Deputy Morris on Tuesday, January 6, 1981. Two hundred police cars filed from Greenfield to Indianapolis and back along treacherous, snow-covered US 40 in a four-hour procession to Greenfield's Park Cemetery. Uniformed, plainclothes, and civilian employees of both the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and Indianapolis Police Department formed ranks on both sides of the street as the hearse bearing Deputy Morris’ body passed the front of police headquarters and the sheriff’s office. Police, firefighters, and citizens stood solemnly at attention at various points along the 40-mile round-trip route.
Approximately 300 family members, friends, and fellow officers crowded into the Pasco Memorial Mortuary at Greenfield and several hundred more police officers listened to the services in Greenfield Christian Church through a special public address system installed by Indiana Bell Telephone. The Rev. John Taylor, pastor of the church, eulogized Deputy Morris, as he delivered a message based on the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the valiant, for they shall find their true mission in life.”
Deputy Morris was survived by his parents, sister, and brother.
Sources: The Indianapolis Star, January 3 – 4, 7-8, 1981.; Marion County Sheriff’s Department, Turner Publishing Company, 2002, p.4.; Chicago Tribune, January 17 and 20, 1986.