Dead Man Walking: The Tony Kiritsis Hostage Crisis

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February 8th, 1977. Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a very cold Tuesday morning and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was approximately 8:00 a.m. and the offices of the Meridian Mortgage company were just beginning to open. Employees from the mortgage company began to file in to the downtown Indianapolis office and as they did so, noticed a short man with large side burns waiting outside. The man was 45-year-old Anthony Kiritsis, known mainly by Tony. He had been in long talks with the company over the last few weeks due to late bills on his newly acquired property. He was there to see the company’s chairman M.L. Hall but he was away. His son, Richard who held a high position would be in shortly. Tony was made aware of the situation and he agreed to wait for Richard to arrive.

Richard would arrive a few minutes later. He immediately recognized Tony and agreed to see him about his property. The situation was a slippery one. Tony seemed to be a bit hot tempered and would become accusatory, as well as hostile when things didn’t go as planned. He also noticed Tony was in a sling, carried what appeared to be blueprints and had with him a long box. Once Richard got settled he beckoned for Tony so that they could discuss things. Tony closed the office door and immediately brandished a sawed-off shotgun he had concealed within the long box. Richard complied with the manic man and didn’t move. Tony then took out a length of wire which he went on to tie one end around his trigger finger, and the other end around the neck of Mr. Hall. This created a mechanism where in which any intervention would more then likely result in the death of Mr. Hall. Tony had the upper hand and he took pride in that. This would be the start of a 63 hour ordeal. 

Tony had convinced his self over the last few weeks that the mortgage company had conspired against him. Making the property he had recently purchased worthless by telling prospective buyers that it was not a solid business decision. There was no proof of this but Tony was sure of it and that’s all that mattered to him. Tony contacted the police to report the hostage situation so that his demands could be laid out. The duo would soon exit the building and police presence was felt almost immediately. The police started to move bystanders away from Tony and instructed all buildings and shops to lock their doors until further notice. Richard remained calm but the expression of helpless dread was understandably painted across his face. Tony walked with confidence as he chastised police, telling them, “not to shoot or he would make a mess in front of witnesses.” After walking through downtown for some time Tony commandeered a police cruiser and made his way with Hall to his apartment pointing his shotgun at Richard the entire trip.

 Tony marching Richard throughout town at gunpoint.

Tony marching Richard throughout town at gunpoint.

Most would think that being held up in an apartment would allow sometime for a S.W.A.T. team to react but Tony would not make things so simple. Tony claimed that he had rigged his apartment with explosives and breaching of any sort would cause them to detonate, taking everyone out in the process. Tony would barricade his self and his hostage in the apartment for almost 3 days, calling police and news agencies all throughout. While Tony spoke and spoke, Richard was left chained in a bedroom throughout the ordeal. Many family members attempted to contact Tony to try and talk him down but all efforts failed. Tony made his demands clear; he wanted a public apology from Meridian Mortgage, he wanted Meridian Mortgage to admit wrong doing, he wanted his debt removed and he wanted immunity for all crimes he had committed. He went on to say that he would release Richard once his demands were met. The hostage crisis was garnering a lot of local and national attention and very quickly Richard’s father found out about the situation. A representative spoke on behalf of the company essentially giving into all demands along with $5 million. This prompted Tony to leave his apartment and hold a press conference where he forced Richard to read a prepared statement. While reading, visible marks could be seen on Richard’s neck where the wire had been pulled taut. Tony was unable to contain his self during Richard’s reading and stole the spotlight. He went on to rant for more then 20 minutes, claiming he was "a goddamned national hero.". Once done and realizing all of his demands were met, Tony unwired Richard and shot his gun out the window to prove it was loaded.

Immediately after firing his weapon he was taken down and arrested. Despite the promises given, the fact that the promises were made while Richard was being threatened by death made them not legally binding. Tony Kiritsis would be charged with multiple crimes and his defense would plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Multiple character witnesses in the media and in the court room would claim that this was very shocking; Tony was a good man and would do whatever he could to help others. A number of psychiatrists were also called to testify and the majority of them agreed that there was something wrong with Mr. Kiritsis but one failed to diagnose Tony at all. This always struck me as odd, how could medical professionals come to such different diagnosis? Who was correct in describing what was or wasn’t wrong with Tony? Historically an insanity defense is a bad move, another potential bad move is taking the witness stand in your own trial. Tony did both. It was apparently quite convincing, proving he was unstable and incredibly paranoid. Tony would stun many by “winning” the case. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity; however, this did not mean Tony could simply walk away. Tony would be sentenced to a mental facility for as long as he posed a threat to his self or others. In January of 1988 he would be released from the facility. Over 10 years of confinement. Tony would go on to live in Indianapolis until the day he died, January 28th, 2005 at the age of 72.

Clips from the hostage crisis.

The Kiritsis case caused quite a commotion considering he was not formally charged with what he had done. Many felt that it could have set a precedent for other unstable individuals to attempt similar situations. According to the law, burden of proof was on the prosecuting attorneys to prove Tony was sane, not the defense to prove Tony was insane. The state changed it shortly afterwards reversing the burden of proof, placing it on the defense to prove their client’s mental state.

Richard would go on with his life after the famous incident. He would return to life and tried to go on as usual. He rarely spoke about the incident and never granted any interviews after the fact. After 40 years and at 82-years-old, Richard wrote a book and finally spoke openly about the events that took place. Reflecting on things Richard spoke how he made mistakes by not talking about it more with his friends and family, compartmentalizing the stress he received from his horrific experience. Hopefully with the release of his book he will be able to put some of what haunts him about those days behind him.