When he was 4 years old, he created a stir by unwittingly toting baggies of crack cocaine to preschool to show his friends.
When he was 13, he threatened suicide and tried to overdose on pills, police said.
And when he was 15, Andre Green took part in a carjacking with a crew who fired at innocent bystanders Sunday before driving into a deadly confrontation with police, a incident that prompted his family and others in the community to question whether lethal force was necessary. Police said the officers’ lives were at risk.
In between, Andre watched his dad go to prison, ran away from home and stole the car of someone at a church who had been listening to him discuss his troubles at home.
For what police said he did Sunday night — taking part in a carjacking, disregarding police commands and using the stolen car to ram a police cruiser — people from the police department to the pastors who want more answers acknowledge this: Andre’s death is emblematic of too many boys who get a bad start in life and never overcome it.
The Rev. Malachi Walker, who just finished a summer camp for 87 inner-city boys in his Young Men Inc. program, said he never came across Andre. But he wishes he had.
“I just wish I could have caught him at a different age, long ago. … The disturbing thing about it is why isn’t somebody trying to get him some help?”
The Rev. Malachi Walker, Young Men Inc.
“I just wish I could have caught him at a different age, long ago,” Walker said. “He had been a troubled kid for a while. The disturbing thing about it is why isn’t somebody trying to get him some help?”
As the city has tried to curtail violent crime, pastors, police and others have talked about the need to save kids from troubled homes, to help them find mentors when parents fail and give them alternatives to life on the streets.
“We have several clear indicators that this young man was on a negative trajectory, and we just didn’t somehow get him to the people — to the services — he needed before he started on his road to bad decision-making,” Assistant Chief Lloyd Crowe of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said at a news conference Monday.
Groups such as the Indiana Black Expo have shepherded initiatives such as Your Life Matters, which aims to intervene before young people go awry. But they acknowledge that their efforts fall short.
“Our city doesn’t have anything in place, I don’t think, that really addresses this, where we take on the role of being the village,” said the Rev. Charles Harrison of Barnes United Methodist Church.
Andre’s life showed trouble early on when he was a 4-year-old student in a Head Start program.
Andre appeared at preschool in March 2004 with some things in his backpack he had brought from home that he began showing other kids in the back of the room. His teacher came to investigate.
Andre Green and his sister pose in this undated selfie. (Photo: Courtesy of Andre Green family)
Two baggies filled with what the boy described as “flour” turned out to be crack cocaine — a large amount that would have been worth roughly $7,500 on the street.
When authorities interviewed Andre and his siblings, they learned that drugs were a regular part of their home life with the boy’s parents, Kenneth Green and Andrea Jackson. A raid of their house produced more cocaine, marijuana, an assault rifle and a bulletproof vest, among other things.
“Daddy dealt but didn’t use, and Mommy used but didn’t deal,” said Carl Brizzi, Marion County prosecutor at the time.
Andre Green and a sibling briefly were taken into state custody. Kenneth Green pleaded guilty to dealing cocaine and neglect of a child before going to prison.
The sensational case prompted an editorial from The Indianapolis Star that said the boy in the preschool cocaine case can’t be held responsible for his actions but his parents were another matter.
“It’s not hard to track children’s downward trajectory when they end up raising themselves,” the editorial said.
For Andre Green, that trajectory included a call to police from his family’s home when he was 13. He was suicidal, according to police reports.
When an officer came to check on him, Andre Green said he had taken 16 over-the-counter pain pills in an effort to kill himself.
“Daddy dealt but didn’t use, and Mommy used but didn’t deal.”
Carl Brizzi, former Marion County prosecutor
“I don’t want to live anymore,” the boy was quoted by the officer as saying. Asked why, Andre Green said he was afraid of his mother and accused her of beating him.
He was taken into protective custody.
By this spring, when Andre Green was 15, he visited a mentor at Broadway United Methodist Church, where he had spent some time, to talk about his troubles at home. When the mentor left the room, Green grabbed that person’s car keys off the table and took off with the car, leaving it damaged when he was done, according to court records.
Andre Green’s mother, Andrea Jackson, declined repeated interview requests this week. Andre Green’s father, Kenneth Green, spoke Tuesday night with The Star at a vigil demanding justice for his son.
Kenneth Green, who has been living in Texas, came up to Indianapolis after his son’s death. The boy had lived with him for a short period that ended on Thanksgiving 2014 when he brought him back to live with his mother.
“I have a lot of pain inside of me to bury my son,” Kenneth Green said.
He said his immediate concern now is getting justice for his son. He wants answers, but he said police have been slow giving them.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers protect the scene Aug. 10, 2015, where officers shot Andre Green, 15, the day before. (Photo: Madeline Buckley, The Indianapolis Star)
Kenneth Green talked before details about his son’s early years had come to light. The Star attempted to speak with Kenneth Green at his son’s home, but he declined subsequent interviews.
In light of the events Sunday night, police officers, pastors and others have asked what could have been done.
Your Life Matters, an initiative the city launched in March 2014 and Indiana Black Expo now oversees, aims to help people like Andre Green but is still in its infancy. The goal is to address persistent challenges facing young African-American males, such as the likelihood of being a homicide victim, involvement in the juvenile justice system, and lower rates of graduation and employment.
Tanya Bell, president and chief executive of Indiana Black Expo and coordinator of Your Life Matters, said members have created an 18-month plan of action and have appointed an executive director who will work with the program’s partners.
Work is being done, Bell said, but “it’s too premature to tell” how receptive the community will be to the initiative.
Despite his troubled upbringing, people who knew Andre Green — a short, skinny kid so thin some called him “Bones” — said he had a great sense of humor and that he had hopes to stay out of trouble and get a college education. But in the end, bad company and bad tendencies won out.
“Some of these kids have great intentions,” Harrison said. “They are good kids, but even good kids can end up victims of the streets.”
On Sunday night, Andre Green was supposed to be at home on detention as part of the aftermath of his spring car theft.
Shattered glass marks the spot where teen carjacking suspect Andre Green was shot by police Aug. 9, 2015. (Photo: Charlie Nye, The Indianapolis Star)
Instead, he and some other carjackers stole a Nissan Altima at gunpoint, drove the car around for an hour, in one instance shooting at a woman and her children, before pulling onto a street with no way out, police said. His two companions in the car fled the scene, and Andre Green was left in the car to face the police.
He attempted a three-point turn in the car as police boxed him in, officials said. Department spokesmen said officers gave him commands to stop, but he used the car to ram a police cruiser, narrowly missing an officer.
A man who said he witnessed the incident disputed the police account, saying Andre Green merely bumped the police car while turning around.
Either way, all three officers there fired on Andre Green. He fell to the ground outside the car with a gun nearby.
And so the boy from the cocaine incident in the Head Start classroom died from multiple gunshot wounds, the Marion County coroner’s office said Wednesday. A funeral for him is Monday at Broadway United Methodist Church.
This young man never had a chance with this kind of family and background, But we will just blame the police anyway because he was black. Because we all know only black lives matter.