Two in custody: CPD, assisting agencies make arrests in Lincoln Park shooting

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Columbus police officers search for evidence after four people were shot on the basketball court at Lincoln Park in Columbus, Ind., Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

Two Columbus men accused of shooting and wounding four basketball players at Lincoln Park at 7:40 p.m. Tuesday night are in custody, accused of what witnesses said was a drive-by assault.

Arrested were Alexander Parker, 18, of 512 Pence St., and Edmarius Oats, 18, of 3464 Old Field Lane, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman. Both are being held in the Bartholomew County Jail without bond, according to jail officials.

Columbus police were sent to the park about a report of shots fired, and when they arrived, Harris said they located multiple young people near a basketball court with gunshot wounds.

Two young adults and two juveniles suffered gunshot wounds, and all four were taken to Columbus Regional Hospital initially, with three of them eventually transported to Indianapolis hospitals later Tuesday evening by Lifeline helicopter, listed as “critical condition” by CRH before transport. The fourth victim remained at CRH in stable condition.

Columbus police have not released the victims’ names to the media. Two of the victims, Gavin Hardin and Jayden Mitchell, identified by witnesses, was released from IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on Wednesday, according to hospital officials in Indianapolis.

When the shooting occurred, numerous softball and kickball games were underway on the nearby ball diamonds, and while some people there ran from the scene when they heard the shots, others ran to help the victims, using towels to stem the bleeding from the gunshot wounds until first responders arrived.

Caleb Hawes, who knows Hardin, said he and his kickball team were playing a game on a nearby ball field when they heard the shots and went running to the basketball courts to try to assist. Hawes said one victim had been shot in the calf and was still on the basketball court, while three others appeared to have tried to run from the court and were found on the ground near a green fence on a path that leads around the softball diamonds behind Hamilton Center.

The kickball players watched as individuals worked to help the victims before medical care was administered by the officers as well as firefighters and emergency medical service personnel.

Two young men who were watching a game at the baseball diamonds say the softball game was interrupted when five shots were audible in rapid succession near the ball fields.

Gavin Edgecomb, Columbus, an IU student home from campus in Bloomington, and Simon Grooms, Columbus, were watching Grooms’ father play softball when they heard the shots.

They said at first they thought it might be fireworks, but when some of the 40 people watching the game began running from the area, they believed it was gunfire.

Both were told the shots were a drive-by shooting as other people nearby said they saw a vehicle leave the scene, although there were varied descriptions as to the vehicle and who was in it. The victims were a group of young men, playing a “shirts” and “skins” basketball game at the courts, they said.

Three young men, shirtless, were laying on the ground near the green fencing with other basketball players who were not injured attempting to assist them by using towels to stem the bleeding, Edgecomb and Grooms said. A fourth player who had been shot was farther away nearer to the batting cages, they said.

One of the victims was shot in the ankle, one in the elbow, one in the leg, and one of the victims who was immediately Lifelined was shot in the leg or the side, they said. There were two or three other basketball players who were not injured and who were trying to help victims, they said.

Hamilton Center, which is directly north of the shooting scene, was initially placed on lockdown and then evacuated, police said. The facility was full of people at the time of the shooting for hockey tryouts, police said.

As a result of information given to investigators, area law enforcement officers began looking for a vehicle and its occupants who were suspects in the shooting, Harris said. On Tuesday night, officers from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office observed a vehicle believed to have been associated with the shooting. A traffic stop was conducted and Parker was taken into custody without incident, Harris said.

As the investigation continued, detectives received information regarding a second suspect reportedly involved in the shooting, who was identified as Oats. At approximately 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, Oats was taken into custody outside of his home on Old Field Lane in Columbus, by members of the CPD SWAT team, which is comprised of law enforcement officers from the Columbus Police Department and the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office.

Harris said there was a period of time at the scene in which SWAT negotiators were asking Oats to surrender. Oats eventually surrendered to SWAT outside the house, Harris said.

Columbus police have heard the rumors that the shooting was a dispute over a girl, but have not confirmed that, Harris said. Detectives are continuing interviews with witnesses as the investigation continues, he said.

Oats and Parker were transported to the Bartholomew County Jail where they are being held on the following preliminary charges:

  • Edmarius Malik Oats: Aggravated battery and criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon.
  • Alexander Isaiah Parker: Aggravated battery, criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon and assisting a criminal.

Additional charges are possible in this ongoing investigation, Harris said.

Bartholomew County Prosecutor Lindsey Holden-Kay was at the shooting scene Tuesday night along with Columbus Police Chief Michael Richardson, saying being on the scene observing the investigation at its beginning is important to her, and she was there to provide whatever assistance she could.

The following agencies assisted at the scene and/or with the investigation: Columbus Fire Department, Columbus Regional Health Paramedics, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police, Indiana University Lifeline, Columbus Park and Recreation, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department and the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office.