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Ask The Mayor: Terre Haute's Duke Bennett On Fallen Officer Ferency, Casino Denial

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Unknown Speaker 0:11
All right. Hello and welcome to Ask the mayor we're recording a little late this week. It's a sad time now in Terre Haute. Of course, most I'm sure have heard that the shooting and killing of Terre Haute police detective Greg fancy last week, you know, arrangements were yesterday. And I have to thank Mayor Duke men and Duke Bennett for still joining us today. You know, just a tragic week, I watched some of the services the procession yesterday, just no words.

Unknown Speaker 0:43
No, there really isn't. You know, it's no main. You know, it's our third police officer killed in the last 10 years here. And it's just kind of surreal. You know, when I heard about this last week, I was actually sitting here at my desk and saw the fire dispatch come across my phone. And so I walked down the back of the building, just to see what was going on. And as I got closer to the actual scene, and I once saw that, you know, they said it was an officer, man, I was just like, no, not again, you know, as a community. I just, it was just awful. Detective parents, he was just, he was an exceptional police officer, he really was he was pretty unique. You know, he was really good at what he did always been kind of involved in that Drug Task Force kind of stuff for us. But, you know, he written the book, he was doing a lot of in service training for police officers and local community entities, doing a lot of things recently with children trafficking and some terrorism stuff. So he was just a huge asset. You know, he was assigned to the FBI here in office, but you know, still in direct contact with our folks on a daily basis. And he was just one of those guys, that was just kind of more than a police officer. And away, he was just kind of a very special guy and a lot of bad people away and her loss stories about people that he'd arrested. And I mentioned one yesterday in funeral service that, you know, girl, 18 years ago, he arrested her, and she's been clean ever since. And, you know, I know a lot of police officers have stories like that, to tell. But Greg had such a wide ranging impact. And, you know, it's just tragic. It's just, it's awful. I feel horrible for his family. I feel horrible for our tear police officers and every other law enforcement officer that they're having to go through this again. And, you know, you hear so much about this on the national news all the time. It seems to be it needs to stop. I mean, that's kind of the bottom line. I mean, all this violence needs to stop. And it's just to save time, as you

Unknown Speaker 2:52
said earlier. Yeah. A lot of the reports just called this and an ambush is are any new details in the investigation about what happened?

Unknown Speaker 3:02
You know, we're not getting any of that the FBI is doing the investigation. And you know, he was basically lying and wait out there through a makeshift Molotov cocktail, towards the building. And when officer parents he came out the door, he was just in, you know, that became an engagement between those two. And that's really what we know, that's been what's put out the media, obviously. But, you know, hopefully, we'll get more information in the future as the FBI continues to investigate this. I mean, they're doing more than a thorough job, as you would imagine. And, you know, hopefully more information will come to light that will put some not make sense of it, because it is senseless. There's no question about that, but at least helped explain, you know, what happened, and why

Unknown Speaker 3:56
you spoke at the funeral yesterday at the Holloman center. And you said that, you know, we live in troubling times that then I think you said the thin blue line keeps getting thinner. What What did you mean by that?

Unknown Speaker 4:08
Well, you know, it just seems to me that that gap between what's going on out there in the world, the bad guys, the people that are want to cause harm. You know, there's more confrontations with police officers just more engagement like that than I've ever seen. And so I guess I would just as I was thinking through always think about that, that blue line there it is a small, you know, that's what keeps us from chaos, basically. And that's what they'll tell you. And it just seems like over the last year or two things have become worse. There's more violence in our communities, police officers are placed with more violent reactions from people and you just hate to see that be so a regular thing. It's almost like daily in the news. You know, it used to be you about it every once in a while. And so I'm just hopeful that we'll get back to where we were before where people respect police officers. And I know there's, you know, everybody will tell you, there's cops out there that have made bad decisions and that they need to be dealt with. But that is such a small minority of police officers are very small. And we just need to get back to that law and order stance. We got to have people to stop shooting people. I mean, you just seem in in Indianapolis, I see the numbers are going up in Chicago and other places. It's like every weekend for violence, and it's just not good for society. So I guess my point was, and just you know, I kind of I was just thinking about that that morning, looking at those police officers sitting there thinking what they have to face every day that I do, you know, or you don't or the listeners don't necessarily have to. We count on them to be there and be that that line that keeps us safe. And I just think that these days, it seems like there's a you know, it's a lot thinner, I

Unknown Speaker 6:04
guess. Yeah. Well, of course, the nature of this really can shake up a community. What can people do to help? You know, I

Unknown Speaker 6:12
think just like they did yesterday, showing up for the funeral lining the profession route, just sending a no, call the police department, whatever, just tell him, we appreciate you thinking about you. That goes a long way towards that healing process, I think for everybody, just knowing that the community cares. And there's no question about that. I saw that, again, in multiple venues that multiple people stopping notes I've received from other mayor's around the state phone calls. And this the response that, you know, I've heard makes me feel good. But I've got to pass that on to those guys on the front lines, you know, they're the ones, those men and women in our police department that are out there putting their life on the line everyday. They're the ones that need that feedback. So that's what I encourage people to do is send them a note, write a letter to the editor, you know, do a little thing just to let them know that you're thinking about them. And you support them. It's just that helps helps them a lot. Knowing that

Unknown Speaker 7:18
I didn't want to get to a couple other things before we leave today with Mike said we'll keep this kind of short as during our special edition here of Ask The Mayor COVID-19 update. You know, as much as it seems everything is back to normal, though Indiana is still seeing that increase in cases, especially now with this delta variant that is much more contagious infect someone sooner. Indiana was around 200 cases a day going up to about 500 yesterday. What's the situation they're in in Terre Haute right now?

Unknown Speaker 7:53
Well, our numbers still remain low. I just got an update here this morning. And over the last few days, we have to one day and three the next. So we're still saying them now single digit low single digits? You know, I don't know if it's any particular reason. And I've seen the numbers kind of across the state going up some but here, we're still doing pretty well. Excuse me. And, you know, I I don't know about this. Very, and I've heard about the different variants out there and you hear this one's more contagious, people get sicker, who haven't been vaccinated? I don't know what variant comes next. But I think people just need to remember there will be those, you know, rises and falls of numbers just because that's the nature of the beast. So ladder numbers are staying down. People are being smart about things, I think in general still, I don't know about the vaccinations. I think we're still pretty stagnant on that. But hopefully, over the coming months, we'll be in a better position. Yeah. To fight these bearings.

Unknown Speaker 9:06
Yeah, it's, you know, some of that has to be concerning to think about maybe, like maybe the latest I saw only about half of if that of Indiana has been vaccinated. And yet you're seeing everything is back to normal, which in some ways is is good. I think we we need that most of us have been had been vaccinated, but it's kind of a it's that balance, isn't it?

Unknown Speaker 9:29
Yes, it is not yours. A lot of things going back to normal. I don't know some of it's just because people want to get out and do it. They are vaccinated and they feel like you know, I can go take on the world, which is awesome. But you know, and I keep repeating this and I hate to be that way that it's become a political thing. There's no question. There's politics involved at this at various levels. And some people are like, I'm not doing the shot because blah blah, blah. Well talk to your doctor. Get a comfort level with that and get vaccinated. You know, that's just, I think it's the right thing to do in the long run, I get the concerns. I've heard about some of the issues that work with your doctor and and hopefully they'll refine these medicines as we move forward and clean up any of that, you know that there is an issue. So people do feel comfortable, like going to get a flu shot, because you know, this is going to be around, and it can be deadly. And so I just hate to keep, you know, beating, you know, that same drum. But people need to not be complacent and talk to your doc.

Unknown Speaker 10:41
Yeah, I think that's been the best part of it is that everybody, doctors and officials and health officials have to beat the drum.

Unknown Speaker 10:53
Do you know what I mean? No. But when you talk about politicians, it's kind of like, people become a little bit numb to that sometimes. Yeah, you hear it on the media all the time, I'm not picking on your media. But nationally, you hear about this stuff every single day still. And you've got some politicians that are saying one thing and others that are saying something else. And I think it gets lost. It's kind of a white noise thing in a way. And so I just feel like me as a local official. I am not going to go tell you why you have to get a vaccination come in my bill, you know, something like that you hear those different businesses and different places that are considered now. People just need to use good judgment. Use good science, talk to your doctor. If you feel comfortable and get a vaccination. You should do that. Because it's better for all of us. If you do

Unknown Speaker 11:42
any plans on reopening schools? Is the city working with the schools at all?

Unknown Speaker 11:47
They put it up day out yesterday, I've talked to the superintendent briefly. And I need to follow up with him on this specific but excuse me, I've got a dry throat today. I'm sorry about that. We're fine. I'm I need to get back with them. And just touch base again. But they put out some information that no, you know, no mass for vaccinated students for coming back five days a week and local schools here. That's plan for next month. So I'm encouraged by that. I think that's great. And you know, once again, we'll watch these variants to watch what happens. We'll listen to the health department. But I think we're in a good spot right now. And if people continue to do make good decisions, we'll be fine.

Unknown Speaker 12:38
I bet you were pretty much surprised, as any as the postponement of the Terre Haute casino. We've said the last few months, you were pretty positive it was happening. And the Gaming Commission decided to deny the group involved citing financial forced ownership changes. What are you hearing now?

Unknown Speaker 12:59
Not much. But I think everybody's working on this. I still am very optimistic. I was just really surprised and shocked at that last meeting and caught me completely off guard. And I, you know, I think it'll get worked out. I really do. And I'm hopeful. I mean, Taro is going to get a casino. I just hope that it's grant Gibson. Because I would much rather have a local person who we know and who already gives back to the community to be able to follow through with this, and do even more things with the community with, you know, the money he makes off the bat. I mean, that's his strategy. That's his goal is obviously it's a business for him. But he wants to give back to the community do some things, and this will be a great way for him to be able to, to do that. So that's my preference. I've made that clear to everybody that I talked to. I just hope that in the coming weeks or months that this can get worked out and we get it going because Greg better to break ground, you know, so I think he's still very interesting. He's not you know, I know he said those comments that day, I think he was a little frustrated, but I'm hopeful that he will submit another proposal and we'll get this bed. That's kind of the bottom line. I'm just sticking to that.

Unknown Speaker 14:17
That's the Lucy luck gaming. But you're not concerned about what the Gaming Commission said about citing the financing part of this because you don't want to casino that can't finance itself?

Unknown Speaker 14:33
Absolutely. No, I think they've got a good financing plan from what I've been told. It's just, you know, crossing all the T's and dotting all the i's the Gaming Commission is very, you know, they wanted a certain way. And I see no reason why that can't be worked out. That's just me though, you know, I'm on the outside looking in. But I really believe that it'll get them by me and I really, truly We believe that I've know I've said that for the last. Well, since October, we've been talking about a groundbreaking but they've sat back here that I really think that it's going to move forward positive way. And hopefully that will include Greg and lucila.

Unknown Speaker 15:18
I know we have to take off here, but I just like to give you the last couple minutes. Any more updates, you'd like to share any announcements you have?

Unknown Speaker 15:25
No, it's just kind of been a blur this summer. You know, we've got a lot of projects going on and dealing with these AARP funds and trying to figure out what we're going to do to position for that. You know, obviously, the loss of the tech you fancy was a huge blow to us. But you know, we're back at it this morning, our police officers back on the streets, we appreciate everybody that stepped in to help us through this time. And, you know, it's it's challenging times. But you know, there's a bright future. And so we need to mourn his loss. And you know, and there's other things that are happening that we can celebrate. It's just it's just really an interesting time, I guess, in the city of Terre Haute right now July's so far, but I'm looking forward to, you know, moving moving forward here, looking forward to the future. And I'm feeling really good about things. So just need to take some time here to reflect and figure out how we could all be better people, you know, in our communities and in this country.

Unknown Speaker 16:32
All right. Well, thanks again, so much for your time. Appreciate it, and we'll see you next month on estimator. Okay. Thank you, Joe. I thank you. Bye bye.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett (Zoom)

Mayor Bennett reflects on fallen officer Detective Greg Ferency a day after the funeral and procession. More on the state's denial of a Terre Haute casino license... and a COVID-19 update.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett addresses these issues and more on a Zoom conference call. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: A tragic week in Terre Haute - I watched some of the funeral services and the procession yesterday of slain Detective Greg Ferency, just no words.

Bennett: No, there really isn't. It's our third police officer killed in the last 10 years here. And it's just kind of surreal. You know, when I heard about this last week, I was actually sitting here at my desk and saw the fire dispatch come across my phone. And so I walked down the back of the building, just to see what was going on. And as I got closer to the actual scene, and they said it was an officer down, man, I was just like, no, not again.

As a community. I just, it was just awful. Detective Ferency, he was an exceptional police officer, he really was - he was pretty unique. He was really good at what he did - always been kind of involved in that Drug Task Force kind of stuff for us. But, he wrote a book, he was doing a lot of in service training for police officers and local community entities, doing a lot of things recently with children trafficking and some terrorism stuff. So he was just a huge asset.

And he was just kind of a very special guy and put a lot of bad people away and you hear lots of stories about people that he'd arrested. And I mentioned one yesterday in funeral service that a girl, 18 years ago, he arrested her, and she's been clean ever since. Greg had such a wide ranging impact. And, you know, it's just tragic.

I feel horrible for his family. I feel horrible for our police officers and every other law enforcement officer that they're having to go through this again.

Hren: You spoke at the funeral yesterday and said that we live in troubling times, and said the thin blue line keeps getting thinner. What did you mean by that?

Bennett: It just seems to me that gap between what's going on out there in the world and the bad guys, the people that want to cause harm. There's more confrontations with police officers just more engagement like that than I've ever seen. And so I guess I would just as I was thinking through a way to think about that, that blue line is small, you know, that's what keeps us from chaos, basically. And that's what they'll tell you.

And it just seems like over the last year or two things have become worse. There's more violence in our communities, police officers are placed with more violent reactions from people and you just hate to see that be so a regular thing. It's almost like daily in the news.

And so I'm just hopeful that we'll get back to where we were before where people respect police officers. And I know, everybody will tell you, there's cops out there that have made bad decisions and that they need to be dealt with. But that is such a small minority of police officers. And we just need to get back to that law and order stance. We got to have people to stop shooting people. I mean, you just see it in Indianapolis, I see the numbers are going up in Chicago and other places.

Hren: The nature of this can really shake up a community. What can people do to help?

Bennett: I think just like they did yesterday, showing up for the funeral, lining the profession route, just sending a note, call the police department, whatever, just tell them, we appreciate you, thinking about you. That goes a long way towards that healing process, I think for everybody, just knowing that the community cares. And there's no question about that. And this response that I've heard makes me feel good.

But I've got to pass that on to those guys on the front lines, they're the ones, those men and women in our police department that are out there putting their life on the line everyday. They're the ones that need that feedback.

READ MORE: State Reports 612 New COVID-19 Cases – Highest Daily Case Count Since May

Hren: As much as it seems everything is back to normal, Indiana is still seeing an increase in cases, especially now with the delta variant that is much more contagious and infects someone sooner. Indiana was around 200 cases a day, but now going up to about 500 yesterday. What's the situation in Terre Haute?

Bennett: Our numbers still remain low. I just got an update here this morning. And over the last few days, we have two one day and three the next. I don't know if it's any particular reason. And I've seen the numbers kind of across the state going up some but here, we're still doing pretty well.

And, I don't know about this variant and I've heard about the different variants out there and you hear this one's more contagious, people get sicker, who haven't been vaccinated. I don't know what variant comes next. But I think people just need to remember there will be those rises and falls of numbers just because that's the nature of the beast. I think in general still, I don't know about the vaccinations, I think we're still pretty stagnant on that. But hopefully, over the coming months, we'll be in a better position.

Hren: Some of that has to be concerning to think about half of Indiana has been vaccinated. And yet you're seeing everything is back to normal, which is good, but those who aren't vaccinated are at risk?

Bennett: A lot of things are going back to normal. I don't know, some of it's just because people want to get out and do it. They are vaccinated and they feel like, I can go take on the world, which is awesome. But, and I keep repeating this and I hate to be that way that it's become a political thing. There's no question. There's politics involved at this at various levels. And some people are like, I'm not doing the shot because blah blah, blah. Well talk to your doctor. Get a comfort level with that and get vaccinated. I think it's the right thing to do in the long run.

I get the concerns, but this is going to be around, and it can be deadly. And so I just hate to keep beating that same drum. But people need to not be complacent and talk to your doctor.

Rocksino rendering inside
Courtesy photo of proposed casino in Terre Haute by Lucy Luck Gaming.

Hren: I bet you were pretty much surprised at the postponement of the Terre Haute casino. The last few months, you were pretty positive it was happening. And the Gaming Commission decided to deny the group involved citing financial issues and forced ownership changes. What are you hearing now?

Bennett: Not much. But I think everybody's working on this. I still am very optimistic. I was just really surprised and shocked at that last meeting and caught me completely off guard. And I think it'll get worked out. I really do. And I'm hopeful. I mean, Terre Haute is going to get a casino. I just hope that it's Grant Gibson. Because I would much rather have a local person who we know and who already gives back to the community to be able to follow through with this, and do even more things with the community with the money he makes.

I mean, that's his strategy. That's his goal - it's obviously a business for him. But he wants to give back to the community do some things, and this will be a great way for him to be able to do that. I just hope that in the coming weeks or months that this can get worked out and we get it going because Greg is ready to break ground.

Hren: That's Lucy Luck Gaming. But you're not concerned about what the Gaming Commission said about citing the financing part of this because you don't want to casino that can't finance itself?

Bennett: Absolutely. No, I think they've got a good financing plan from what I've been told. It's just, crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's. The Gaming Commission want it a certain way. And I see no reason why that can't be worked out. That's just me though, I'm on the outside looking in. Since October, we've been talking about a groundbreaking but they've sat back here that I really think that it's going to move forward positive way. And hopefully that will include Greg and Lucy Luck.

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