Dutch government ‘very concerned’ after soldier’s killing in Indianapolis

Authorities in the Netherlands are “very concerned” about the level of gun violence in the United States, the Dutch defense minister said on Tuesday, following an incident over the weekend in which three Dutch special operations forces were shot in Indianapolis and one died of his injuries.

Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told reporters in Prague, where she met with her European Union counterparts, that the state of affairs in the Netherlands’ “most important ally” had become troubling.

“We do many trainings of our servicemen in the United States and we really don’t expect this to happen,” Ollongren said.

The three Dutch servicemen belonged to the Commando Corps, an elite special operations unit of the Royal Netherlands Army, and had traveled to the United States for training at a camp in southern Indiana. They were visiting Indianapolis while off duty and were shot in front of their hotel downtown at around 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

Police said at least five gunshots were fired at the group as it returned to the Hampton Inn in the 100 block of South Meridian Street, just two blocks south of Monument Circle.

One of the soldiers, identified by the Marion County Coroner’s Office as 26-year-old Simmie Poetsema, died two nights later from his injuries, the Dutch defense ministry said Monday.

The other two commandos have injuries that are “currently believed to be non-life-threatening,” the Indianapolis police department said in a statement Monday. The department is communicating with agencies in the United States and the Netherlands and working to bring family members to Indianapolis and return the soldiers to the Netherlands, the statement added. Dutch authorities said the commandos were “conscious and able to speak.”

Shamar Duncan, 22, of Indianapolis, was arrested in the case Tuesday on a preliminary charge of murder, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said. Duncan was being held in jail and will not be eligible for release from jail while the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office reviews the case, police said.

Duncan’s arrest did not appear in online court records, and it wasn’t clear whether he has an attorney who might comment on the case.

“IMPD detectives want to thank members of the community for their cooperation during this investigation,” IMPD spokesman Shane Foley said. “During the investigation, multiple individuals spoke with detectives and provided detectives with video connected to the investigation.”

The Dutch reaction underscored the gulf between the realities of gun violence in the United States and in the Netherlands, two developed countries and NATO allies that cooperate on military matters but have vastly different levels of gun deaths. In the Netherlands, such a street shooting would be an anomaly. In the United States, it’s another weekend night.

The three members of the Netherlands’ Commando Corps, an elite special operations unit of the Royal Netherlands Army, had traveled to the United States for a training at a southern Indiana military camp. They were visiting Indianapolis while off duty and were shot in front of their downtown hotel.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett told reporters Monday morning that the commandos could have been shot in a drive-by shooting after a bar-room dispute, according to The Indianapolis Star.

Hogsett said he believed the city’s downtown area was safe.

“I don’t know the details of how it happened and what caused it to happen,” Hogsett said. “The tragedy is that it happened. The tragedy is people got into a dispute and they ultimately resolved that dispute by pulling out a gun and shooting.”

The shooting and Poetsema’s death sent shockwaves through the Dutch military.

“Everybody is shocked that this happened,” Major Mark van de Beek, a spokesman for the Royal Netherlands Army, told the Star. “We are losing a great colleague and I’m sure everyone at the unit is going to miss him very much.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Dutch counterpart on Monday to offer his “deepest condolences.”

“My thoughts are with their families and teammates,” he wrote on Twitter after the call.

Gun violence in the United States has surged in recent years. Firearms purchases hit record levels in 2020 and 2021, with more than 43 million guns estimated to have been bought during that period, according to a Washington Post analysis. More than 45,000 gun fatalities were recorded during each of the past two years, and the rate of gun deaths hit the highest level since 1995.

The United States’ “intentional homicide” rate was seven times that of the Netherlands in 2020, the last year for which the United Nations has statistics on both countries. The death rate from gun violence was nearly 18 times higher in the United States than in the Netherlands in 2019, according to the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

In July, Indiana’s Republican-controlled state government nixed the requirement that people have a permit to legally carry, conceal or transport a handgun within the state. Hoggett, the Democratic mayor of Indianapolis, said he has been working to reduce gun violence in the city, which saw record-setting violence in 2021. As of Aug 22, the city had recorded 133 criminal homicides so far this year, according to the Star’s tracker.

The numbers represent a 17% reduction from last year, Hogsett pointed out Monday. “We are making progress,” he said, according to the Star.

By comparison, the Netherlands recorded 121 victims of murder or manslaughter in the entire country in 2020, the latest year for which the government’s statistics bureau has released numbers. Netherlands has a population of about 17.2 million.

Dutch gun laws are much stricter than those in the United States. It is illegal to own or use firearms and other weapons in the Netherlands without a special weapons permit. Only people who have been granted an exemption from the ban—for sporting, hunting or participating in historical re-enactments, for example—can acquire firearms legally, after undergoing psychological testing and background checks.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

23 thoughts on “Dutch government ‘very concerned’ after soldier’s killing in Indianapolis

  1. This has become a problem in every nightlife district in the US. Guns are so rampant and available that anyone who wants one can get them legally, or illegally. People in other countries that have an argument in a “bar dispute” fight with their fists. We need gun control, like the Netherlands, where you have to have a specific purpose and a psychological evaluation to get a weapon. Unfortunately it’s too late for that here because there are already too many guns out there. I don’t believe an unregulated firearms industry for every citizen was what the founders had in mind when the 2nd amendment was written.

    1. I’m sure the folks who perpetrated this crime would respond heavily to gun control. Because thugs like these guys would look at those laws and say, “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t use guns to resolve a dispute because that would be illegal!” Yep.

      Given that you think “there are too many guns out there”, what would new laws do to reduce this, Wesley? You do realize that there’s an inevitable, albeit unintended, consequence to (overwhelmingly Dem) mayors letting lawlessness prevail in their cities by telling police to step down on basic quality-of-life law enforcement that used to be routine? Everybody feels less safe, and most people feel that the social services won’t be there to help them. So they buy more guns. Gun ownership has absolutely skyrocketed in the last three years; even the cost of bullets is outrageous.

      Maybe if you wanted to keep the number of guns down, there should have been more effort to promote a culture of lawfulness that wouldn’t compel people to go out and buy firearms.

    2. Not just every night life district… The rural car show shooting in Alabama made national headlines, most likely because all of those gun happy rural good ol’boys never thought that unlimited access to guns would have any effect on them.

      And yeah, we have decided to ignore the “well regulated militia” part of 2A, after all what could go wrong?

    3. This is not the product of “too many guns” its the product of a prosecutor that has his ears plugged and has let crime run rampant on the streets of Indianapolis. The Mayor is doing nothing. If they say downtown Indianapolis is safe, for the most part during regular business hours…. maybe. However these incidents usually happen in “entertainment” areas after normal daytime hours. With prosecution as it stands now and a police force that feels handcuffed, many “folks” feel uninhibited in seeking revenge for even small signs of disrespect. Even if they are caught the punishments are not enough and people’s attitudes are totally out of control. If we don’t want to undo all the greatness that was accomplished over the last 40 years, something must be done. The political “climate” has to change and things need to be cleaned up. Republicans need to clean up their act and not do as Tony Katz put it and simply write off the City of Indianapolis. Democrats can’t run anything bigger than a shoe store so they need to back off and let some people that know how to do things take over.

  2. Unfortunately, Indianapolis is out of control. The crime downtown will destroy the city nightlife. What an embarrassment to Indianapolis and the US.

    1. You missed (or choose to ignore) last weeks headlines about the city’s near 20% reduction in crime since last year.

    1. Because we live in a free society where the time we go out and where we congregate is rarely limited. It’s not your business.

    2. Yes 3:30am. No tourist guide in any city around the world says to be outside at that time. This could be London or Indianapolis being out at that time isn’t smart.

  3. So according to Wesley the problem in downtown is guns. Not the person holding them. According to Donnie the problem is apparently the clock. I say the problem is a useless mayor who has allowed a once great downtown to be overun by kids and young adults, many who should be in jail but have been released with no bail. Can’t wait for the mostly peaceful riots prior to November elections.

    1. Indy’s first truly terrible mayor in anyone’s lifetime. Completely ineffectual on things that really matter. But, are there any GOOD big-city mayors right now? No, only less awful ones: Muriel Bowser, Michael Hancock, Eric Adams (a negligible improvement over De Blasio), Francis Suarez. The less you hear about mayors, or their cities, the better of a sign it is. Lets hope we can keep Hogsett out of the limelight as much as possible as he finishes his second and hopefully final embarrassing term.

    2. Eric Adams is awful, I don’t know what you like about him. He’s letting the MTA go to pot, actively blocks new housing units, and using cops as a tool against homelessness (which, just like very other time it has been tried, will fail spectacularly). He sucks.

  4. Hogsett’s claim that he believes downtown Indianapolis is ‘safe’ may be the most nonsensical political daffiness since Hank Johnson warned that the island of Guam was going to flip over. So here come all the usual “Too many guns, yepper. Too many of ’em” comments. Sorry Wesley, but harkening back to the thoughts of the Founders as to a “well-regulated militia” always begs the far more vital question. Quite literally ALL of the Founders did agree on one important item that doesn’t exist anymore in America. Namely, that a democratic, constitutional republic will ultimately fail unless the population is made up of essentially moral people.

    John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Others referred to the ‘civic religion,’ a basic agreement across society of what constitutes good, lawful and moral behavior. Those old codes of virtue and honor are no longer valued or taught to be important.

    We are now governed by what philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre called ’emotivism’: the idea that all former institutions and conventions were ‘bad’ and ‘destructive,’ and that all moral choices are nothing more than expressions of what every choosing individual ‘feels’ is right, just and fair. This is in contrast to what used to be termed a ‘virtuous society,’ one governed by a specific and long-established code of moral virtues inculcated by parents and families, schools, churches, governments (by association), and other accepted community institutions.

    More than half of American kids today are born into a fatherless home, and that number approaches 70% in the AA community. If the mother works, those kids spend their formative years being raised by day care centers, the next best thing to being raised by wolves. So if the streets are armed with 4,000 guns, 400, 40, or just 4, it won’t matter because these fatherless, rudderless, mannerless, unschooled and immoral children grow up to be bored, futureless, immoral and uncaring adults, if they live that long. Bored, futureless people are quite capable of truly terrible acts. They become murderers not just of fellow humans, but of society itself. And as crime waves in gun-free Britain have shown, they’ll do it with knives, or clubs, or rocks. And if they can’t do that, out of boredom they’ll use the nearest thing they can find (look up acid attacks in London if you’re bored.)

    1. Given the state and national gun policies he and every mayor of a large city has to work with in the US, I think he is doing a yeoman’s job. If you want any city to see real progress on crime, we have to realize that unlimited and higher power guns, with no regulation is not the answer.

      I predict that given the current state and national gun policies, we are going to get to the point that any large gathering will have have a high probability for gun violence. The probability will go up in conjunction with alcohol, and the latter the hour.

      Parents will be texting their 20 somethings; “did you remember your flak jacket?”. MAGA.

  5. Authorities in the Netherlands are “very concerned” about the level of gun violence in the United States.

    We should be too, but in our ignorance and gun lobbyist’s greed, we have been convinced that the solution to the out of control gun violence is to make sure we have even more and higher powered guns and that everyone in the country is armed.

    I am wondering why Australia, who had 125 murders last year in a country of 25 million couldn’t see how smart we are in the US.

  6. A few observations. I know of several young people who have lived downtown for four or five years that when I talked to them last year had always said they feel safe and love living there. These same young people now say they don’t feel safe and are in the process of moving to the suburbs. I used to go downtown for entertainment, eating etc., but no longer. The last time I was there I had to deal with too many people wanting money from me. One of them wasn’t homeless, but scary enough that I felt fearful and gave him some. You can go back and forth on if these are valid reasons for moving away or not going there to spend money, but it’s just not a good sign for the area. I’m sure there are others like us.

    1. Good words, Jeff A., I’m sure you are spot-on. Formerly, I took my wife down to St. Elmo’s once a year for any sort of celebration I wanted to dream up. She thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the food. She simply won’t go anymore, period.

      All the negatives posted thus far about Mayor Joe “Boss” Hogsett are absolutely true. He let it get out of hand with the rioting following the George Floyd incident and it’s tough to overcome that. His going on TV and saying Indianapolis is still perceived as a safe city must be the most dramatic wet dream he’s ever had.

  7. You people are the reason our city and most cities in the US have problems. Instead of pointing blame or politicizing everything that happens, why don’t you take pride in your city and be part of the solution. Our Mayor like other Mayors is doing what he can to make the city safe. What are you doing besides criticizing and party hating. Find a way to make a difference or move away if you don’t like Indy or Joe.

    1. Lee W: Because no one on this page has direct control over the police, their policies, or a time machine to 2020 to use such power, articulating why it’s time for Joe to go is the next best thing.

      A little different scale, but Fort Wayne had its own riots in May`20 – but law enforcement came down hard and firm, and was backed by local political leadership including the Dem Mayor; and that downtown is thriving even more in last two years

      Heard the axiom that if streets aren’t clear, utilities dont work, or people aren’t safe, political affiliation is beside the point. Joe needs to go for performance reasons.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}