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FBI Director Wray talks botched Nassar investigation, crime in Indy



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FBI director talks Larry Nassar investigation, Indy’s violent crime, uptick in hate crimes

Jake Allen

Indianapolis Star

FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed efforts to combat violent crime and the agency’s botched investigation of sexual assault by Larry Nassar in a visit to the Indianapolis field office Thursday. 

Wray, appointed to the director position in 2017, was joined by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Zachary Myers and other law enforcement leaders from across Indiana.  

Wray answered pre-submitted questions from Indianapolis reporters before meeting with law enforcement officials to discuss tackling violent crime.  

He also made another stop in Indiana the day before. 

On Wednesday, Wray met with several students studying in Anderson University’s Center for Security Studies & Cyber Defense and the university’s President John Pistole, a former FBI official, according to The Herald Bulletin.   

Wray discussed preventing violent crime, the Nassar investigation, combating hate crimes and diversity efforts in Indianapolis:  

‘Totally unacceptable’: Wray addresses FBI’s botched Larry Nassar investigation 

There were massive systematic failures in the FBI’s handling of 2015 allegations against longtime USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, according to a 2021 report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Officials with the Indianapolis FBI office made false statements, failed to respond for months leading to more than 100 other gymnasts being sexually abused and exhibited “extremely poor judgment,” the report stated.  

Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced to more than 100 years imprisonment in 2018. Pressure on the federal law enforcement agency started to rise after IndyStar first exposed the allegations against Nassar in 2016

“What certain of our folks did and, more importantly, did not do back in 2015 is totally unacceptable and failed the young women who were victims of his (Larry Nassar’s) abuse,” Wray said Thursday. “Those women deserved much better and for that, all of us at the FBI are deeply sorry and determined to make sure it never happens again.”  

From 2021:Failings of Indianapolis FBI in Nassar investigation cast a cloud over other cases

More:‘FBI failed survivors’: Massive systematic failures uncovered in DOJ’s Larry Nassar report

The FBI has strengthened its policies and procedures, building in additional accountability, and enhanced training across the agency for handling sexual abuse and assault complaints, Wray said. 

The new policies are designed to have multiple checks in place to ensure there is no single point of failure. The policies are meant to make sure complaints are quickly reported to state and local agencies or handed off to another FBI field office in a timely matter, if necessary, Wray said.  

“They are all designed to make sure that everybody in the FBI learns the really heartbreaking lessons of that (the Larry Nassar) case and I’m proud of the work that our folks have done to learn from that,” Wray said.  

Violent crime an issue in Indianapolis, across the country 

More:Indianapolis killings: Tracking every homicide in 2023

“That violent crime threat we are facing is going to take all of us working together with all our collective strengths and expertise to stay ahead of it to protect the public,” Wray said. “That’s something I am confident is happening here in Indianapolis.”  

The director pointed out FBI task forces, which include local law enforcement partnerships, that address gangs and criminal organizations. He noted the Safe Street and Violent Crimes task forces in Indianapolis.  

The Indianapolis task forces worked with IMPD to arrest a serial rapist in the city using a fingerprint from a victim’s home, Wray said. The man arrested pleaded guilty to eight counts of rape earlier this month.  

More:Indianapolis gun violence has rideshare drivers scared: ‘I thought I was going to die’

Indianapolis has so far seen 44 criminal homicides and 55 non-criminal homicides as of Thursday afternoon. In 2021, the city suffered record-breaking homicides with 271 total people killed and 249 killed in criminal homicides.

Indianapolis’ homicide count for 2022 was lower than 2021, but still did not reach pre-pandemic levels.  

“The violent crime problem is something we are seeing across the country, including here,” Wray said. “When I talk to chiefs and sheriffs all over the country it’s the first topic that comes up and the last topic we talk about.” 

The key ingredient in reducing violent crime is ensuring federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are working together and prioritizing the arrest and conviction of the most dangerous offenders, Wray said.  

FBI director talks about combatting hate crimes  

In 2020, Indiana saw a spike in reported hate crimes, according to data from the FBI. The bureau received 186 hate crime reports in 2020 in Indiana, which was a 133% increase from 2019. Reported hate crimes dropped to 132 in the Hoosier state in 2021, according to the FBI.

“It is certainly true that all too often in this country right now we are seeing people fueled by hate seeking to harm others simply because of what they look like or who they are,” Wray said. “That’s totally unacceptable and something we are determined to do our part to help deter and prevent.”  

From February:Indy Jewish group urges vigilance ahead of purported national day of hate

The FBI has made investigating hate crimes a top priority nationally, which means hate crime investigations get extra resources, focus and attention, Wray said.  

The agency works with U.S. attorneys to assist them with filing federal hate crime charges and works with local and state investigators when federal charges are not appropriate.  

The FBI also does hundreds of trainings and seminars with law enforcement as well as community, religious and minority groups to increase cooperation in hate crime investigations, Wray said. The agency is working to raise awareness for potential victims and witnesses of what a hate crime is and how to report it.  

FBI to hold diversity recruiting event in Indianapolis 

Wray also highlighted a recruiting event the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office is hosting April 19.  

“We cannot keep innovating and getting more sophisticated in our approach if we are all looking at the problem through exactly the same angle or coming at it with exactly the same set of tools,” Wray said. “It’s going to take all kinds of people working together to accomplish our mission.”  

Contact Jake Allen at <a href=”mailto:jake.allen@indystar.com”>jake.allen@indystar.com</a>. Follow him on Twitter @Jake_Allen19.

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