'Tony' Kiritsis dead at 74; Held an Executive Hostage for 63 Hours in Indy in 1977
Anthony G. "Tony'' Kiritsis, who wired a shotgun to the head of a mortgage executive and paraded through the streets of Downtown Indianapolis in 1977, died today.
Kiritsis, 74, was found dead in his home of natural causes.
Fred Heckman, the legendary WIBC newsman, made headlines in 1977 as a key player in the infamous Tony Kiritsis hostage standoff.
It all began when Kiritsis took mortgage executive Dick Hall hostage in downtown Indianapolis. Kiritsis had obtained a mortgage from Hall's company on land he hoped to develop for commercial use. But Kiritsis fell behind on payments, and Hall threatened foreclosure.
Kiritsis was convinced that Hall had interfered with his efforts to attract businesses to use the property and that Hall wanted to foreclose on the property in order to sell it himself, since the values of the property had increased considerably over the years.
In early February, Kiritsis went into the mortgage company’s office and pulled a pistol on Hall. He then proceeded to wire a sawed-off shotgun around Hall's neck, pointing at his head. The safety on the shotgun had been removed. If Hall or Kiritsis fell, or if Hall would try to get away, the shotgun would fire.
With media cameras rolling and radio reporters broadcasting, Kiritsis walked out of the building with Hall in front of him, climbed into a police car, and ordered an officer to take them to his apartment on the Indianapolis westside.
A stand-off then began, with Kiritsis and Hall inside the apartment and the entire complex filled with police.
Officers were afraid to break into the apartment, since wire could be seen around the windows, and Kiritsis was known to be trained through the military in explosives. Kiritsis also indicated on several occasions that he would "blow" the apartment if police didn't follow his wishes.
During the 63 hours that he held Hall prisoner, Kiritsis would speak to no one but WIBC’s own Fred Heckman, who he repeatedly called. His calls aired live on the air, and he continuously asserted that he was not crazy and had made a “preemptive strike” against Hall because he was trying to take his land.
Finally, Kiritsis was told that Hall had signed a document stating that Hall's company had mistreated him, promised pay $5 million, and assured that Kiritis would not be arrested or prosecuted.
After getting that news, Kiritsis left his apartment with Hall still wired to the end of the shotgun. He went to the apartment complex's recreation room, where dozens of police and reporters were waiting for him.
In what police would later call the "Thursday night news conference," Kiritsis made a statement that was broadcast live on WIBC as well as local and national TV. All through the rambling speech, WIBC's Heckman stood nearby, at Kiritsis' insistance.
During this "speech," Kiritsis was extremely emotional, and as he became teary-eyed, it looked as though he was going to shoot Hall. At that point, some TV stations dropped the live broadcast.
WIBC stayed with it until Kiritsis, surrounded by IPD officers and Marion County Sheriff's deputies, led Hall into another apartment.
There, Kiritsis unwired the shotgun and fired it out an open window to prove the gun was loaded. He was immediately arrested and charged for kidnapping, extortion, and related offenses. Hall, although shaken, was not seriously injured.
Months later, Kiritsis went on trial for these charges. Much to the dismay of prosecutors, Kiritsis was found “not guilty by reason of insanity” on all counts. He was sent to a mental insitution, where he stayed for a number of years.
Later, the Indiana legislature would change the state's criminal code to allow a verdict of "guilty, but mentally ill" so future juries might have options in cases like this one.
Dick Hall never spoke publicly about the incident.
When asked to recall the incident, former mayor Bill Hudnut noted the “way in which [Fred] Heckman rendered a tremendous public service by negotiating for Hall’s life.