By Rick Hinton
In February of 1972, a crime was committed that shook up the small town of Cumberland, Indiana — roughly nine miles east of big brother Indianapolis — that would have lasting ramifications of how we view those entrusted to protect and serve, and a portrait of ones humanity.
Marion County Sheriff Floyd Tom Settles, on that day like any other, responded to a call on his patrol car radio of a bank holdup at American Fletcher National Bank & Trust in the tiny town of Cumberland. It was his beat … and close to the area where he grew up. It was home. He responded. On that Thursday at 11 a.m., as he entered the bank trying to make sense of what he had heard on the radio, he was essentially ambushed and shot to death.
Don McLean’s American Pie and Harry Nilson’s Without You continued to play on the radio station WIFE. Yet for many of those in the Indianapolis community, and this small town, it became quite something else: a somber awakening that there were evil people in the world, as the 1970s decade had just gotten started, and just possibly … this was a look at our future.
Tom Settles’ story, and the aftermath of the crime committed with those involved, was profiled in a three-part series in The Southside Times in November 2018. However, the story doesn’t end there. In the case of a brave sheriff — who pulled one pant leg on at a time as we all do, and put others before himself — the story continues to this day.
Lt. Roger Waggoner, with the Cumberland Metropolitan Police Dept., is instrumental in making sure that the memory of Tom (Floyd) Settles lives on. It’s an annual event, held at the Cumberland Town Hall, and just a short distance down the sidewalk sits the former AFNB building where Settles gave his life. Yes, the building is still there, repurposed now for anther business. However, many in the community still remember that day.
It’s 39 degrees outside … a gray day, Feb. 24, 2019, as a steady wind produces a mild howl. The parking lot is almost full. Inside the town hall, the Marion County Sheriff’s Honor Guard presented the colors and the ceremony began. Roger Waggoner presented welcoming remarks, followed by retired Sheriff Captain, now lawyer with the Sevenish Law Firm, Randy Sevenish. He offered thoughts on Tom, of the sense of duty and honor that had followed him home from two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was followed by personal comments from Tom’s nephew, IMPD officer Larry Giordano, and Tom’s daughter, Dawn Viers.
Why have this ceremony every February? Lt. Waggoner intends that Floyd Tom Settles may never be forgotten … that he did not die in vain in service to his community. As the years roll by and we grow older, Settles will remain eternally young, staring out at us with a direct gaze, wearing his uniform shirt and campaign style hat. He was prepared to serve.
Randy Sevenish summed it up best: “Sacrifice is to walk and die on that thin blue line.” Well-said, sir!