A death in Cumberland: Part I

By Rick Hinton

Marlene Settles (Giordano) still remembers the day her brother Floyd was born. It was Sept. 5, 1946, and even though she was only four years old, at that age it made an impression. Quite often there is that bond between siblings that transcends any assumption we are too young to remember such things. However… Marlene did. “I remember the day he was born,” she stated. “Our eyes met and it was love at first sight! And it never stopped growing.”

Marion County Sheriff Deputy Floyd “Tom” Settles.

Floyd “Tom” Settles grew up on the far east side near Cumberland. Back then, this area was far removed from downtown Indianapolis, lying in a relatively flat expanse of farms and homes stretching east to Greenfield. Cumberland was a way stop along the trek. Tom attended Warren Central, played ball, and learned to drive in this east side locale, living the life of a normal teenager as expected. Marlene remembered, “He was dynamic! And one of the most totally alive people I’ve ever known!” His short life came abruptly to an end on Feb. 24, 1972. He was 26 years old.

That peculiarly warm Thursday in February started out as any other day. Don McLean’s “American Pie” and Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” played over the airwaves of radio station WIFE. Life stretched east toward Greenfield when a silent alarm sounded just before 11 a.m. from the Cumberland branch of the American Fletcher National Bank & Trust. Tom, a Marion County Sheriff, responded to the call. He had no suspicion he would not be going home that night.

Two gunmen wearing ski masks entered the building at 11701 E. Washington St. with pistols drawn, disarmed a Pinkerton Agency guard, and announced, “This is a robbery! Nobody’s going to get hurt! Everybody get behind the cages!” In addition to the guard, those present were bank manager Kenneth Herndon, the assistant manager, three female tellers and two customers. Video tape cameras snapped off a photo every 15 seconds. Two additional customers entered the bank during the robbery and were quickly shuttled behind the cages. Before having their hands bound behind their back with white clothesline, one teller managed to trip the alarm. Tom Settles was just finishing up a call on East 21st St., 10 blocks away, and took the run. He pulled his patrol car to a stop on a side street next to the bank, deliberated for a few seconds, and with service revolver drawn, approached the front door. They saw him coming!

The former AFNB bank (now a dentist office) at East Washington and Muncie Streets. It is directly across the street from Sero’s Restaurant. (Photo by Rick Hinton)

William Edward Adams, 46, a part-time bartender at the Mahogany Bar, had a lengthy record. He had been arrested 15 times since June of 1956, convicted nine times on various charges, including robbery. Billy Ray Adams, 26, was a second cousin (or nephew, depending on what source you read) to William. He had a prior arrest on a robbery charge which was dismissed. “Damn it, there’s a marshal! He’s coming in!” Billy Ray exclaimed. In the few seconds before Tom Settles entered the bank, they made their decision.

One of the robbers hid behind the cages, the other flattened himself against the wall. Initially, Tom didn’t see the one planted on the wall. When he caught sight of the one behind the counter, he ordered him to drop his weapon. The one on the wall stepped out. The shooting started. Tom got off two rounds before being hit in his gun hand and thigh. He collapsed against the counter. The other gunman leaned over it and shot him twice in the head. Tom’s sister, Marlene, claims it was Billy Ray who administered the fatal shot. She would know; she was at the trial. The thieves made off with $11,453 and a female hostage, disappearing in in a dark blue four door Pontiac heading north.

Tom died at 1:25 p.m. at Community Hospital. He had been a sheriff’s deputy for only two-and-a-half years before his death. The story, however, does not end here…