- College football reporter.
- Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
- Graduate of Northwestern University.
When Mark Deal, a former Indiana football assistant who oversees the program’s alumni relations, needed former players to help with youth clinics, he always called Chris Beaty.
A walk-on defensive lineman at Indiana from 2000 to 2003, Beaty always provided the same response: “I’m there, Coach.”
Beaty didn’t play much at Indiana, recording five tackles and a sack during his career. But those who met him as a player or an alum were often struck by his presence and positive attitude. Beaty attended games and every possible alumni function in and around his hometown of Indianapolis.
He greeted all with a smile and many with a bear hug — “It kind of takes your wind out of you for a split second,” Indiana football coach Tom Allen recalled.
“He wasn’t Alex Smith or Vaughn Dunbar or Trent Green or Ernie Jones, but man, he was all Hoosier,” Deal said. “A Hoosier hero.”
Beaty promoted Indiana whenever and wherever he could. He also promoted parties and products, venues and businesses, especially around Indianapolis. Beaty had hookups for everything from sound production to catering to a good barber.
More than anything, though, Beaty promoted the people in his expansive orbit. He found jobs for some and relationships for others. His friends said he always saw the potential of the people in his life.
“Chris Beaty was different from most people because he was always rooting for everybody,” said A.J. Foyt IV, the former IndyCar driver. “He wanted everybody to win. He wanted everybody to be successful and be happy.”
On May 30, 2020, Beaty was shot and killed. Family members and friends say the 38-year-old was shot outside his downtown apartment when he intervened after seeing two women being mugged.
His death widely impacted the city where he was known as “Mr. Indianapolis,” and over the past year, tributes to Beaty (pronounced Beet-ee) have continued to flow in. Earlier this year, Indiana and Cathedral High School announced a scholarship and a tuition fund in his name. Indiana named its annual walk-on award after Beaty.
The loss also has inspired those who loved Beaty to come together, even during a year in which it was difficult to do so.
“[In basketball], when you lack a big center, it takes an entire team to focus on rebounding,” said Jason Buckner, who met Beaty at Indiana and now serves as director of draft scouting for the Detroit Pistons. “All of us who were close with Beaty need to make up for his absence.”
BEATY GREW UP on the northeast side of Indianapolis, the youngest of three. He mostly attended Catholic schools, first St. Andrew the Apostle and then Cathedral High.
Beaty and his mother, Debra Beaty-Cooper, were active in their church, volunteering for everything. He became close with his pastors, including the late Patrick Kelly, the Indianapolis Colts’ longtime chaplain, as well as his many sports coaches.
“I made sure that he was around good people,” said Beaty-Cooper, who worked in a lab for pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company. “Even then, he was very polite. He’d walk in the room and greet everybody. He had that personality.”
Beaty fit right in at Cathedral, one of the city’s top academic and athletic high schools. Jen Renzi Cook, who arrived with Beaty, can’t think of anyone more popular in their 230-person class.
Whenever Renzi Cook had a good day, Beaty would notice and celebrate it with her. If he saw students sitting alone at lunch, he would leave whatever group he was with to join them.
“He was popular his whole life, popular until the day he died, and he always used his popularity for good,” Renzi Cook said. “That was his legacy. He went out of his way to make everyone feel good. He was everybody’s biggest fan, and he had so many fans.”
Beaty helped Cathedral High to Class 4A state titles in 1996, 1998 and 1999. After college, he remained close to the school and its athletic program, attending games and fundraisers. His private funeral service even took place in the Cathedral High gym.
Beaty then went on to Indiana, playing under coaches Cam Cameron and Gerry DiNardo.
“I don’t really remember all that much about him on the field, but I remember a lot about him on the team,” DiNardo said. “He represents someone that doesn’t play a lot, and yet he’s a great teammate, comes to work every day and practices hard, always positive. It’s hard to be on the team and not play on Saturdays. It takes a special person to be a really great teammate when they’re in that position.”
Off the field, he helped Larra Overton, an intimidated freshman from New Albany, Indiana, feel comfortable on campus, always remembering her name and going out of his way to acknowledge her. When safety Brandon Mosley arrived for his official visit, Beaty took him to parties all around town.
Indiana didn’t have a winning season when Beaty played and reached only one bowl game between 1993 and 2015. Beaty’s support never waned.
“It didn’t matter who our head coach was, our players, he was Indiana through and through,” athletic director Scott Dolson said. “When you talk to Chris Beaty, you’d think IU never lost, because he just was always so positive.”
Every April, Beaty took part in IU day, a daylong celebration of the school. Since alumni couldn’t gather during the pandemic, Beaty contacted several prominent athletes and asked them to send in videos, TikTok-style, which he turned into a compilation.
“It was totally on his own,” Overton said. “Chris has all of his football buddies and I’m like, ‘Do you really need me?’ But Chris makes everybody feel like you belong. He reached out to so many people, and if you get a text from Chris to participate, you immediately are going to do it.”
Allen faced Beaty’s Cathedral teams in the late 1990s while coaching at Indianapolis prep powerhouse Ben Davis. He and Beaty bonded over their roots in the state and in Indianapolis.
“Any time a place is home to you — it was to him, it is to me — that’s a natural connection,” Allen said.
The two grew closer after Allen became head coach. When Indiana made the 2020 Gator Bowl, Beaty flew to Jacksonville. He participated on a Zoom call with football alumni shortly before his death.
Allen has shaped Indiana’s program around the acronym LEO: Love Each Other, which has taken on new significance over the past year.
“He lived it out,” Allen said of Beaty. “That’s what attracted me to him and him to me, even though at the time, he probably didn’t know what LEO was. It was always about somebody else. He’s such a giving person. Even in his death, he was trying to protect somebody else.
“That, to me, is what makes him really, really special, and makes it all the more painful to lose him the way we did.”
TO BE OUT with Beaty in Indianapolis, Buckner recalled, was like the famous Copacabana scene from “Goodfellas,” where Henry takes Karen into a crowded nightclub through the kitchen, only to have the staff hurriedly prepare them a table in the center of the ballroom.
“He was like the mayor,” Buckner said. “He could make the impossible possible.”
Buckner remembered parties at 6 Lounge, a club where Beaty served as assistant general manager and director of marketing and events. The VIP area would include pro athletes like Peyton Manning, Danica Patrick, Jermaine O’Neal and Edgerrin James. Foyt met his future wife Casey Irsay, the daughter of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, at a St. Patrick’s Day party Beaty organized at 6 Lounge (Beaty was a groomsman in their wedding).
At some point, Beaty picked up the name Mr. Indianapolis.
“Chris is the embodiment of Indianapolis,” said Jared Thomas, Beaty’s nephew, who played football at Cathedral High and then Northwestern. “He took pride in being from Indianapolis. When you have somebody who was going to rep it until he was no longer here, that took on serious weight. After you do something for so long and you throw great events in the city and you keep running into the same crowds, the name kind of sticks.”
Before Colts home games, Beaty would assist his close friend James Waldon, known around Indianapolis as DJ GNO. Beaty communicated with the stadium operations staff so Waldon could focus on playing music during warm-ups and player introductions. Beaty also was a fixture at Pacers games and at the Indianapolis 500.
“It was VIP everywhere we went,” Mosley said. “His currency was his name. He loved the month of May because of the Indy 500. We were always at the track, the Turn 2 [VIP] Suites. We were always with the Foyt family in their garage. He knew all the garages.”
Beaty used his popularity and connections to help others. (“His legacy is a uniter and a connector,” Buckner said.) When Mosley’s football career ended, Beaty secured him his first post-college job at The Music Mill in Indianapolis. When Waldon moved to Indianapolis from New York, Beaty booked him DJ gigs at events he produced. When Overton moved to Indy to continue her career as a TV sports reporter, Beaty made connections and provided constant support, just as he did when they were both student-athletes at Indiana.
“He was just a giver, selfless, team-oriented individual,” Waldon said. “He knew if I won, he won as well.”
When Overton began doing on-air content for the Colts in 2019, Beaty would greet her on the sideline before every game.
“He would say, ‘I’m so proud of you,'” Overton recalled, “and I would always laugh and say, ‘I haven’t done anything yet.’ He said, ‘No, no, no, you’re going to be a star.’ I know I’m not alone. He would so frequently throw out, ‘I’m so proud of you,’ and it wasn’t because of what his friends had achieved professionally.”
Buckner thinks about how Beaty would have shined this spring during March Madness, held almost entirely in Indianapolis. Beaty would have been moving nonstop, directing visitors to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars and the best local businesses and services.
“There are very few people who look to simply serve the way he did,” Buckner said. “He was at the intersection of business, of sports, of entertainment, of anything happening in Indianapolis. He knew judges, he knew police officers, he knew the whole gamut.
“He was the gatekeeper to the city, the consummate host.”
MAY 30 IS Mosley’s birthday. For a decade until last year, he celebrated every year with Beaty.
On May 30, 2020, the two spoke multiple times. At midnight, Beaty and several other friends FaceTimed Mosley. Mosley then called Beaty as he drove back to Indianapolis from a wedding. Beaty had been very careful during the pandemic, limiting his social circle and social calendar. He would wear a mask on bike rides with Waldon and Buckner. He also had started his own mask company.
In normal times, Mosley would have driven right to Beaty’s apartment. But the streets had been blocked off because of the Black Lives Matter protests surrounding George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis five days earlier, so Mosley went home and showered.
“I believe I was his last call,” Mosley said. “I missed his call around 11:36, 11:39. And then I called him back 10 minutes later, 11:50, 11:52.”
Police say Beaty was shot around 11:45 p.m. He had gone to his car to collect an item, leaving his phone and identification in the apartment. Mr. Indianapolis was initially classified as a John Doe.
Beaty’s friends began to worry the following day when calls and texts went unanswered. They called hospitals and jails. They grew concerned after learning the location of two unidentified downtown shooting victims from the previous night. Mosley and several other friends of Beaty’s went to his apartment. Mosley filed a missing person’s report.
“Everybody was calling from all around the world, ‘Have you talked to Chris? We were talking to him and now we can’t find him,'” Beaty-Cooper said.
As the news of Beaty’s death spread, people started gathering outside Beaty’s apartment on Vermont Street in downtown Indianapolis. Local artist Andrea Townsend and her friend Anna Martinez painted a 30-foot-long mural of Beaty on the wooden boards set up due to the protests.
Many wrote personal messages next to Beaty’s portrait, which shows him smiling and wearing an Indiana polo shirt.
“Hundreds of people came by throughout the day, not all at once, but people he really mattered to, friends and family, business people,” said Townsend, who had met Beaty several times and had several mutual friends. “It was sad and also really touching, because he was such a prominent figure in our city. His death left a big void, and people are feeling the loss.”
Beaty’s friends quickly organized a public memorial for him, held at The Pavilion at Pan Am, a large event space downtown. Despite the pandemic, long lines formed.
“I knew he knew a lot of people, but sometimes just knowing them doesn’t make them your friends,” Beaty-Cooper said. “I found out after he died that, oh my gosh, these people love my son.”
Afterward, Beaty’s friends gathered on a rooftop above The Patron Saint bar and shared memories. An ice sculpture at the post-memorial displayed what witnesses of the shooting said were Beaty’s final words: “There’s got to be a better way.”
AFTER BEATY’S DEATH, those memorializing him would cite the words: “Live Like Chris.” Beaty’s family ended statements with #LiveLikeChris, and the phrase was displayed prominently at his public memorial.
The mission hasn’t been easy. Mosley talked with Beaty every morning for “wake-up motivation,” and no longer has that outlet. As Overton said, “We all felt so helpless.”
“They’re lost,” Beaty-Cooper said of her son’s friends. “They call me all the time. I tell them, ‘Chris is gone and he’s not coming back, but his spirit is going to always be around. It’s what he taught you guys. You’ve got to pass that on to somebody else.'”
In December, Marcus Jayon Anderson, one of five people police say were involved in robberies in the area, was charged with murder in the killing of Beaty. A trial set for this month was pushed to Sept. 20.
“Not having answers for so long surrounding his death and the circumstances, and still not having answers, is a constant pain and a constant hurt that so many of us still endure,” Overton said. “Now it’s this task and responsibility we feel to continue his legacy. How do we do justice to Chris and all the good he would have been able to do?”
Some have done so through the funds for both Cathedral High and IU, which each received $100,000 in donations. Thomas launched a GoFundMe that generated more than $175,000. Overton helped organize a fundraiser at Holliday Park in Indianapolis, where friends of Beaty’s did a socially distanced workout while Waldon DJ’d.
The Cathedral tuition fund will cover four years for an incoming freshman, with primary consideration given to African-American students from inner-city Indianapolis, especially those with an interest in entrepreneurship.
The Chris Beaty Indiana football scholarship will go to an athlete from the state, with preference for those who arrived as walk-ons. Davion Ervin-Poindexter and Christian Harris were the first recipients of IU’s Chris Beaty Outstanding Walk-On award.
“People are going to be lucky to have those students in the future, to send their kids to IU or Cathedral in memory of my uncle,” Thomas said. “He wanted to make an impact in Indianapolis, and those two things are a depiction of that. His name is going to live on forever.”
The anniversary of Beaty’s death brought more tributes: A golf outing Friday, a balloon release and prayer vigil Sunday outside his downtown apartment. Beginning this week, the Beaty mural will be displayed at Circle City Industrial Complex, which houses several studios and galleries.
Mosley feels “an empty spot in my heart” without Beaty, but he’s also inspired to honor his friend by connecting, promoting and celebrating those around him.
“A lot of the friends in Indianapolis or just around the country wouldn’t know each other if it wasn’t for Chris,” Mosley said. “A lot of husbands wouldn’t have the wives they have if it wasn’t for Chris. He touched a lot of lives. The crazy thing about it is, the kids who killed him, he would have helped those types of kids. If anything, I’m even more motivated and determined to get things done and become an even better man and role model. His loss literally sparked a fire.”
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