The Smile That Lit Up A Room: Indianapolis Remembers Dreasjon Reed

5 min read

One year ago today, a 21-year old Black man, Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, was shot and killed by an officer working for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. The one-year anniversary of his death is near on the horizon.

Reed was a former airman first class. He was tragically killed following a high-speed car chase and brief foot pursuit in Indianapolis near Michigan Road across from a public library. He filmed his chaotic last moments on Facebook Live, running from officers as a taser was deployed. Reed fell to the ground as thirteen gunshots rang out. The young man was dead, with bullet holes in his head, back, and eyes.

A responding detective would later approach his body. “Looks like it’s gonna be a closed casket, homie.” he laughed.

Live footage of Reed’s death quickly went viral online, the tragic event was compared to a modern-day lynching among the likes of Emmett Till. Reed’s death came in the eye of the storm, occurring amidst an international conversation about police brutality and violence. His death occurred between two groundbreaking events, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd — also Black men.

In November, officials in Indianapolis announced that a Grand Jury declined to indict officer Mercer in the shooting of Reed, announcing that they found he acted within the law. State investigators say Reed was killed after pointing a firearm at Mercer and firing twice, a conclusion that has been denied by a legal team for the Reed family.

The evidence that was shown to the Grand Jury is completely sealed, and will likely never be known by the public.

Fatima Johnson, an attorney for the family, held a press conference soon after the announcement, expressing disappointment in the verdict.

Officials pointed out Reed’s past mistakes and run-ins with the law, however, Reed’s mistakes don’t tell the whole story of who he was, his friends and family say.

Reed’s coworkers remember him as a cheerful colleague who valued hard work. He spent just under a year with the U.S. Air Force in 2017 as an active-duty airman in the 3p0 Security Forces field.

He was stationed at joint base San-Antonio Lackland. His flight leader, D’Andre Patterson, said Reed was “the clown of our group.”

“He knew how to make the hardships and troubles of basic [training] go away every time he talked.” Patterson told “He was just a goofy individual.”

Reed and Patterson had a special connection while serving alongside one another – both men are from Indiana. They kept in contact through social media after Reed separated from the Air Force.

After he left the service, Reed held a job at Discount Tire, the nation’s largest independent tire and wheel retailer.

Reed’s family remember him as a loving friend who brightened the lives of those around him.

“He was sweet. Lovable. Always smiling,” said Reed’s father, Jamie Reed at a press conference. “Always up and moving around. Always keeping everyone’s spirits up.”

Demetree Wynn, Reed’s mother, also spoke.

“If you knew my son, you loved my son,” she said. “You couldn’t take his heart from him because he gave it to you first.”

She recalled Reed’s history of trauma to the head. Reed experienced a particularly daunting incident in January of 2019. Reed’s mother says he was attacked by a group of robbers after cashing his check from Discount Tire. The group brutally beat him, leaving him hospitalized.

This, his mother said, was when he became paranoid. Reed began to exhibit PTSD symptoms which would last up until the day he died.

“That day changed my son,” Wynn told ABC Affiliate WRTV. “He got to the point he felt like he had to look over his shoulder constantly. That’s when he changed his name to Sean.”

She recounted an incident, shortly before he died, where he acted as a good Samaritan. Reed had come home late to a confused woman walking alone in the street. He called 911 and went to bed.

The next day, Reed got a phone call in the shower. A woman’s shaky voice on the other end called out to him.

“Thank you for saving my mother.” The woman said. Reed had encountered a mentally ill woman who didn’t take her medication and was wandering the street alone. If it wasn’t for Reed, she very likely could’ve died.

The decision by the Grand Jury to decline charges in Reed’s death opened a fresh wound for much of Indianapolis. Businesses were boarded up as protesters descended upon downtown Indianapolis, calling for justice in his name. Reed’s death ignited a conversation surrounding the adoption of body-camera policies in Indianapolis.

Every 6th of the month, participating small businesses donate proceeds to Reed’s family, in a new-found local tradition known as ‘Drea Day.’ The proceeds will go towards support for his family, as well as legal experts in an upcoming wrongful death lawsuit.

Individuals who knew Reed remember him as a young man with a promising future. His social media pages are flooded with tribute messages, condolences, and well wishes on his journey to the afterlife.

One of Reed’s friends, India Gregory, wants to put an end to the negative rumors regarding who Reed was. She and Reed met while attending church together. Gregory’s family sat next to Reed’s at services.

“Dreasjon Reed was one of the most positive people I knew.” Gregory told “He stayed with a smile on his face and instantly lit up the room when he walked in.”

“He was loved by a lot of people.” she went on. “The whole city was and still is heartbroken over what happened to him.”

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