Mayor responds to allegations over medical emergency at Lawrence restaurant 


A medical emergency at a Lawrence restaurant on April 17 where Mayor Deb Whitfield was present became an item of note in a political newsletter, which alleged the mayor escalated the tension rather than offering assistance and that “someone in her group” assaulted one of the restaurant owners.


The mayor’s office denied the allegations and the owner of AJ’s Bar & Grill, 9755 Fall Creek Rd., refuted much of what was stated in the newsletter — but corroborated other parts of the report. 

The Cheat Sheet is distributed by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, who operates the Indy Politics blog and was a 2023 Republican primary candidate for Indianapolis mayor. The newsletter includes a disclaimer, stating that it is “a compilation of pure gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo. We assume no liability if it is wrong; we only take credit for it when it’s right.”

The Cheat Sheet’s report about the April 17 incident alleged that Whitfield accused AJ’s staff of not calling 911 and yelled that they were going to let a Black man die. 

“Then there was a lot more yelling in the parking lot, and someone in her group shoved one of the establishment owners to the ground and then ran away,” the newsletter stated.

A Lawrence police spokesperson and restaurant owner Kevin LaBarr both said the mayor’s group had left the premises before LaBarr’s wife was shoved by a patron who was not connected with Whitfield’s party. 

A spokesperson for Whitfield’s office released the following statement about the incident:

“On Wednesday, April 17, Mayor Whitfield and two colleagues were dining at AJ’s in Lawrence when they observed a restaurant patron who appeared to have lost consciousness. As a former healthcare provider, Mayor Whitfield believed the man needed immediate medical attention. After urging restaurant employees to call for help, Mayor Whitfield asked a member of her party to call 911. The mayor and her colleagues waited outside the restaurant for Lawrence first responders to arrive. Once the afflicted man was safely loaded into an ambulance, Mayor Whitfield and her colleagues departed the scene.”

LaBarr said the person who had the medical emergency works at AJ’s, but was not on duty at the time. The man was having dinner there with some of his family. LaBarr added that other members of the man’s family also work at AJ’s. 

LaBarr said he and his wife were at another of their restaurants in Fortville when the man showed symptoms so he did not personally witness the initial part of the incident, although they made it to the restaurant in less than 20 minutes after learning about it from staff. He said he later reviewed footage from security cameras — which do not have audio — and the footage showed the man was in need of assistance at 9:18 p.m., which is when call logs indicate that AJ’s staff called 911 before calling him and his wife. 

LaBarr said staff and some other patrons told him they heard Whitfield loudly and repeatedly expressing displeasure about a perceived delay in calling for emergency responders — both inside and outside the restaurant — and that she wanted to talk to the owners, but then declined a conversation when LaBarr approached her. 

He did not find any witness who heard Whitfield say anything about restaurant staff letting a Black man die. 

LaBarr said he wasn’t happy about what he heard from staff and patrons regarding the mayor’s actions, and she was no longer welcome at AJ’s. He said his staff followed proper protocol for emergencies, which stipulate contacting emergency services first and then calling management. 

He said the man who had the medical emergency has recovered. 

The assault on LaBarr’s wife took place after the man was taken away in an ambulance and Whitfield and her group had left. LaBarr said they had been preparing to drive the man’s wife to the hospital — because she was too upset to drive herself — when another woman started yelling that they were racist. 

“My wife says you need to stop. She walks up and says, ‘You need to stop. What you’re saying is not true,’” he said. “We have customers, guests, coming out of our Italian restaurant next door. They’re hearing (the woman) screaming this at the top of her lungs and stuff, and it’s bad for our business and it’s just wrong. It was just flat wrong. And then this guy comes out of nowhere and blasts my wife to the ground.”

He said his wife was bruised where the man struck her in the chest and she skinned her elbow when she fell. Lawrence Police Department officers were called to respond to that incident. A police report was generated, but so far no arrests have been made.