21Investigates: Law allows families to request ISP investigate ‘uncharged death’ cases

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 7:43 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) -A Fort Wayne mom is frustrated that no charges have been filed in the 2020 shooting death of her son, Steven Gibson. Tina Djurdievich says the person who she believes killed him admitted to it. However, according to reports from the Fort Wayne Police Department, they believe it was self-defense.

Djurdievich was not satisfied with the investigation, so she took advantage of a state law that took effect July 1, 2021. Senate Enrolled Act 177 allows immediate family members to ask the Indiana State Police (ISP) to investigate an “uncharged death.” 21Investigates wanted to know how many times ISP has opened a new investigation after a request.

“An altercation happened,” said Djurdievich. “Shots were fired and 911 was called. I was pretty devastated.”

Gibson was shot Aug. 13, 2020. Two weeks later he died on Sept. 2, 2020. Before he took his last breath, Djurdjevich, says he told her who pulled the trigger. However, his final words weren’t enough for FWPD to make an arrest in the case.

According to the police report, the man who pulled the trigger says it was self-defense. Digging deeper into the report, the initial 911 call was made by the person who Djurdjevich believes shot her son. That person reported an “unwanted” person inside the apartment.

When police arrived to the 300 block of Rudisill, investigators found Gibson on the ground outside of the home “in distress.” He was suffering from a gunshot wound to the stomach, but was able to tell police who shot him.

Officers detained a possible suspect, the report says, and later questioned him but let him go. No charges were filed.

That was not enough for Djurdjevich. She turned to Senate Enrolled Act 177, which gives immediate family members the ability to ask ISP to review a case and open a new one.

Although she was hopeful, the response wasn’t what she hoped for.

“They were sorry to tell me but they were not going to investigate Steven’s case,” she says. “I was hoping that steven’s case would be different.”

According to the Sgt. Jeff Coffey of the ISP, there have been a total of 45 SEA 177 requests since July 2021, 26 reviews have been completed, and 19 cases are currently under review. At least two cases are actively being investigated with the help of ISP.

But she doesn’t want that to discourage other families going through similar circumstances. She still wants them to know SEA 177 is an option and families can ask for a review. So other familes can seek justice too.

“Don’t stop,” she says. “Make noise, make sure that your name and your loved one’s name is repeated.”