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The Indiana Daily Student

crime & courts

Official charges filed in killing of 1-year-old

Darrin Banksbrianpalmer.jpg

Two men in Indianapolis confessed to a drive-by shooting that ended in the death of a sleeping toddler, according to court documents. 

Prosecutors officially charged Darrin Banks and Brian Palmer on Tuesday morning with murder and battery with a deadly weapon.

One-year-old Malaysia Robson was killed in the early hours of March 29, police said, after the two men sprayed the home with bullets while following a dispute that started on social media. 

“Both Mr. Banks and Mr. Palmer admitted to firing .223 caliber rounds at the residence … and knew it to be occupied by several people,” wrote Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department detective Jeremy Ingram in a probable cause affidavit. 

According to Ingram’s affidavit, both admitted to the drive-by shooting at the one story house in the 3500 block of North Wittfield Street in east Indianapolis. 

City leaders and activists were outraged by the toddler’s shooting, the latest in a series of gun deaths that have plagued Indianapolis in recent years.  

“We are confronted here with the worst form of such gun violence,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a press conference. “An innocent child was robbed of her dreams and a city was robbed of its future.”

“She was only 1 year old,” Malaysia’s grandmother Robin Robson said between sobs at a rain-soaked prayer vigil. “She died a senseless death.”

Investigators found 19 spent shell casings at the scene. When officers arrived, Malaysia was taken to Riley Hospital for Children. About a half an hour later, officers were informed she had died. 

A single bullet entered the toddler’s abdomen and struck her liver, stomach, diaphragm, left ventricle, left lung and heart. Ingram attended the toddler’s autopsy. 

The feud that led to the shooting stemmed from an ongoing dispute that started on social media, court documents said. Then, it escalated to a large fight at Carriage House East, an apartment complex. Court documents say Banks and Palmer were upset when Banks’ pregnant sister was injured in the fighting.  

The shooting took place just before 2 a.m. Thursday, March 29, when a car, reportedly driven by an unidentified woman, stopped in front of the house where Malaysia was sleeping. According to the affidavit, Banks and Palmer got out of the car and opened fire on the white one-story house.

Police called for the shooters to turn themselves in, but it was a tip from a source, unnamed in the affidavit, that led detectives to Banks and Palmer. 

Members of the IMPD SWAT team, homicide unit, robbery coordination unit and other units began placing the suspects under surveillance. Police reported that Banks and Palmer both drove 1989 Chevy Caprices, and they followed them. 

The officers saw the two suspects together April 10 in Palmer’s car. When Palmer ran a stop sign, police pulled him over. Banks and Palmer were taken to the homicide office and the car was towed.

Officers searched both men’s vehicles and found two AR-style rifles and ammunition from Palmer’s car. 

Angry residents held up signs protesting the gun violence at the vigil on the evening following the shooting. One of the signs declared “Enough is enough,” echoing the same motto chanted by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived February’s massacre at the Parkland, Florida, school and have been advocating for gun control ever since.

Rev. Charles Ellis, a community organizer in Indianapolis, said school shootings like the one in Parkland drew a great deal of attention. But he pointed out more kids, like Malaysia, are killed everyday in city streets.

“While suffering is suffering if you just go by pure numbers, we lose even more on the street,” he told the Indiana Daily Student.  

The Saturday following the shooting, the Ten Point Coalition, an anti-violence group in Indianapolis, organized a march in Malaysia’s honor. There were more than 100 people. 

“I’m angry, I’m tired of the killing,” one person’s sign read. 

The coalition returned to the home of the shooting this April 11 to help reinstall the windows shattered by the bullets. Since the shooting, they had been boarded.

"We are grateful today," Leroy Smith of the Ten Point Coalition said, "That these young men have been brought to justice. 

This story has been updated.

Editor's note: This story was reported through videos of a press conference and interviews as well as visiting the home where the shooting took place and interviews with activists

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