Woman shot by North Vernon police had prior altercation with Seymour police resulting in an ordered mental health evaluation


NORTH VERNON — A woman who was shot and killed by North Vernon police this week had a prior run-in with law enforcement in Jackson County that involved a high-speed pursuit through Seymour in 2022 and an injured baby and was ordered by a judge last year to undergo a mental health assessment, according to court records.

Rachel Blake, 23, was killed by North Vernon police on Tuesday after two officers responding to a disturbance fired their department-issued handguns at her after she allegedly advanced towards them with a “large knife,” according to Indiana State Police, which is investigating the incident. The officers, who have been placed on administrative leave, allegedly told her repeatedly to drop the knife and tried to disarm her with a projectile stun gun before they shot her, striking her “at least once.”

Blake was pronounced dead at the scene by the Jennings County Coroner’s Office.

Currently, the circumstances surrounding the shooting are unclear. The North Vernon Police Department and Jennings County Sheriff’s Office asked the Indiana State Police to conduct an investigation. The state police are expected to present the results of the investigation to the Jennings County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

It is also unclear whether North Vernon police were equipped with other less-lethal weapons besides tasers. Some police departments, including the Columbus Police Department, equip officers with less-lethal launchers that fire sponge rounds. CPD has used its new launcher to help subdue an individual who was armed with a knife, the department said in its most recent annual report.

When contacted to ask whether officers are equipped with other less-lethal weapons besides stun guns, a North Vernon Police Department official interrupted and told The Republic, “you will need to call the Indiana State Police, they’re handling the case,” presumably referring to the officer-involved shooting.

Blake’s previous run-in with law enforcement took place in October 2022, when Seymour police responded to a report of a disorderly person at a local residence, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Jackson Circuit Court. When they arrived on the scene, a woman identified as Blake told police that “her grandmother had taken her keys, was using drugs and had ‘things’ under her sink that was (sic) making her paranoid.”

Officers state in the affidavit that they attempted to calm her down, “assuring her everything was OK.” The officers went with Blake to the backyard of the residence to look in her car to help her find her keys, which ended up being located on the driver’s seat.

As Blake was attempting to leave, one of the officers asked her if he could properly secure a car seat that was in the back seat of the vehicle but not strapped in, according to court records. Blake agreed, according to the officers.

As the officer was positioning the car seat, Blake “walked briskly” to the vehicle and got into the driver’s seat of the car with her 9-month-old son in her arms, put the car in reverse with the driver’s side door open and “started backing up very fast,” the affidavit states.

Blake ran over one officer, who was taken to an emergency room to treat swelling and bruising to his right knee.

She allegedly then put the car in drive and sped forwards towards an officer. The probable cause affidavit states that the incident was captured on an officer’s body camera.

Blake then fled the scene while holding the baby in her arm, leading officers on a pursuit through Seymour, according to the affidavit.

The vehicle sped through the Seymour Middle School parking lot and onto O’Brien Street, causing an officer to swerve his patrol car into oncoming traffic to avoid a collision, the affidavit states.

Blake allegedly disregarded several stop signs while swerving and fluctuating her speed. The pursuit continued outside the Seymour city limits. At one point, Blake put on her left turn signal and turned left onto U.S. 31, swerving into oncoming traffic to avoid stop sticks that an officer had set up in the intersection.

Officers said they attempted to maintain a safe distance from her “so that no harm would come to the child, who we believed was not restrained in the vehicle,” the affidavit states.

The vehicle later went off the roadway on U.S. 31, went down an embankment and hit a culvert, “ripping the front skid plate out from under the vehicle.” Blake then tried to get back on U.S. 31, but officers boxed her in with their patrol vehicles.

“The driver then tried to exit the vehicle with a baby in her arms, as the vehicle (was) still in motion,” the affidavit states. “The vehicle begins to roll backwards, and the driver’s door closes on them, preventing the driver from getting out. The vehicle then rolls backwards back into the ditch line approximately 60 feet until it hits a creek bed/ditch line, causing the vehicle to teeter in the ditch.”

Officers then ran to the driver’s door of the vehicle and found Blake still holding onto the baby, according to the affidavit. Police attempted to remove the baby from her arms, but she allegedly began pulling away and screaming.

At one point, Blake “put both of her feet together and raised them up as if she was going to mule kick” an officer, the court documents state. Before she could kick, another officer grabbed her legs. Blake and the baby were both removed from the vehicle.

Blake allegedly continued to “fight with officers” with her baby still in her arms. Police then took the baby from her and placed her in handcuffs, though “she continued to scream, flail and kick” as she was being restrained, according to court records.

The baby suffered several injuries, including a contusion on the right side of his head, bruising and a slight abrasion under his nose, a 4-inch-long bruise on his forehead and hairline, “red marks all over” his body and “a handprint from the mother holding him so tight” on his thigh.

“The baby also had blood smeared on the right side of his head (that) probably came from the female due to her having a cut on her chin,” the affidavit states. “Based on the injuries of both the female driver and baby boy, it is believed that they both struck the steering wheel during the crash with the ditch at the end of the pursuit.”

Still flailing, Blake was strapped into a cot and taken by ambulance to Schneck Medical Center for treatment. The baby was taken to Schneck Medical Center in a separate ambulance for treatment.

At the hospital, Blake “continued to scream and yell” but calmed down after medical staff gave her medication. She refused any further treatment. The affidavit does not state whether she was tested for alcohol or illegal substances, and she was not charged with driving under the influence, according to court documents.

Blake told a Department of Child Services case agent that “her grandmother and the officers were trying to frame her with drugs. Rachel states that when the office was trying to take out her car seat, that’s when she knew she needed to get away. Officers then chased her because they were going to rape her. Rachel didn’t want to say anything further.”

The baby’s father, identified as Jacob Wright, arrived at the emergency room and told police that they had broken up the previous night and that Blake was suffering from postpartum depression. He also told police that she wasn’t using any kind of illegal narcotics.

The baby was released into the father’s custody.

“As Rachel was being walked out, she was calm at this point,” an officer states in an affidavit. “Rachel asked why she was being arrested, and I advised for multiple charges. Rachel stated that she didn’t understand, because she was being raped,” court documents state.

Blake was charged with five Level 6 felonies, including neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury, criminal recklessness committed with a deadly weapon, resisting law enforcement using a vehicle, battery against a public safety official and leaving the scene of an accident with bodily injury, court records state.

Blake later entered into a negotiated plea agreement with Jackson County prosecutors. On Nov. 1, she pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury and resisting law enforcement.

Blake was sentenced to 730 days in Jackson County Jail, with 648 days suspended for each of the two counts she pleaded guilty to. She was ordered to serve the two sentences concurrently and received 41 days of credit for time already served.

She also was placed on probation for 648 days and was required under the terms of her probation to submit to drug testing and undergo an evaluation by the Jackson County Probation Department to determine if she needed any treatment, counseling, therapy or other rehabilitative assistance.

According to the terms of her probation, Blake was required, among other things, to undergo evaluation withing 30 days by a mental health program certified by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction.

“If evaluation reveals a need for treatment or therapy, you must complete that program as established and pay all costs associated therewith,” according to an order dated Oct. 31 by Jackson Circuit Court Judge Richard Poynter.

Blake was released from Jackson County Jail on Nov. 15, 2022, officials told The Republic. Her probation was transferred to Jennings County this past January.

Currently, it is unclear whether Blake underwent a mental health assessment last year as ordered by the judge. The Jackson County Probation Department declined to say whether she was in compliance with the terms of her probation last year.