Officers Luke and Ben MacDonald have done everything together.
“We’ve been blessed. We never had a different job. He’s been my best friend my entire life,” Luke MacDonald said of his twin brother.
One of their best moves was joining the Fort Wayne Police Department in 2007, where they are now homicide detectives.
One of their luckiest breaks was going to Memorial Park Middle School and then South Side High School, where they excelled in academics, music and soccer.
Although they are not technically identical twins, according to their mother, Kim Werling, they look so much alike “no one can tell them apart,” she said.
They make it easier for everyone by sticking to their distinctive styles. Luke has worn his hair longer ever since South Side where they graduated in 2002. Ben’s hair could hardly be shorter.
Dave Streeter, the South Side music teacher who gave them their love of jazz, said the way he kept them apart was the instrument they played.
Ben played upright bass in orchestra; Luke was a saxophone player in band. Both were in his jazz band. Ben also played with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic at special concerts and won performance awards with his version of the “Haitian Fight Song” by Charles Mingus.
With their acquired knowledge of music between two world wars, they competed on the South Side Fine Arts academic team at the state level, Streeter said.
Luke was a standout soccer goalkeeper, featured in The Journal Gazette his senior year.
“They were phenomenal kids,” Streeter said. “They were soccer players, outstanding musicians, real hardworking kids. You gave them something to work on and they would get it together. They were very self-motivated.”
Luke first heard about openings at the Fort Wayne Police Department while attending IPFW, now Purdue Fort Wayne, on a scholarship with credits in business and computer science and additional credits in pastoral ministries from Taylor University. He passed up a chance to play college soccer after burning out on year-round soccer, he said.
Ben had been studying computer programming and was only a few credits short of a degree. Both had been working identical jobs including one at FedEx where Werling and the twins’ stepfather, Craig Werling, worked. Both decided to take a chance.
“When you walk into a gym with 700, 800 applicants and there’s 35 spots, you feel like ‘this probably isn’t going to happen.’ I wasn’t getting my hopes up, but when it did, it was an opportunity,” Ben said.
After graduating from the police academy in the fall of 2007, they both bid to be patrol officers on the southeast side, an area of town they knew well.
Moving from Monroeville to the south side when they were in the second grade “really helped their growth with diversity,” Werling said. “They understand and learned a lot about different cultures and people. For them, it was a great opportunity.”
The MacDonalds are the beat cops who came back to the neighborhood. Most of their patrol time was on the C-shift or overnight shift on the southeast side where they met senior officer, and then sergeant, Timothy Hughes, now the homicide unit supervisor.
Luke recalled the time he went to the hospital when one of his basketball buddies had been shot. “He’s been shot a few times,” Luke said. “I grew up playing basketball with him.”
On another run, a former classmate was intoxicated and outside yelling.
“Dude, I’m one of the twins from South Side,” Luke said to him.
Ben liked the idea of working as an officer “after growing up down there and having a lot of love for the community, a lot of pride in the south side.” He has seen former classmates go down the wrong road, he says.
“I’ve had to arrest classmates for serious crimes,” Ben said.
Luke spent a decade as a negotiator on the Crisis Response Team and both MacDonalds play bagpipe on the FWPD Pipe and Drum Team. The twins are hockey players on Fort Wayne Freeze, a competitive ice hockey team made up of local law enforcement.
When the Fort Wayne Police Department sought to expand the homicide department, the MacDonalds saw it as another challenge and both applied for the exempt positions.
“We were really fortunate to go up there,” said Ben, referring to the homicide office at the Rousseau Centre. “Luke and I have always liked a challenge, always liked teams, team sports, team games.”
Luke is partnered with Scott Studebaker while Ben is teamed with Brian Martin, who has eight years on homicide.
“Chasing the worst people on earth and trying to be creative in investigation is what I love,” Ben said.
“Ultimately this is where I wanted to end up,” said Luke, who emphasized his desire to communicate with people and what propelled him to join the crisis negotiating team. “In crisis negotiation, it’s not normally very confrontational. In a homicide case, there is a point in time you do have to push harder.”
As in school and work, the MacDonalds also live as close as possible to each other and to their mother. Their father, Joe MacDonald, is also important in their lives, they said.
Luke has three children and married his high school sweetheart, Anika MacDonald, a German foreign exchange student. Ben has four children with his wife, April MacDonald.
Both talked about Werling’s work ethic as an inspiration. “That’s probably a lot of what has made them what they are,” Werling said.
She retired from FedEx after 30 years. For five years, she and her husband delivered The Journal Gazette seven days a week “just so I could make extra money just to pay for those extracurriculars.”
When her sons work on cases, she’s aware they’re working late at night.
“They don’t really talk about work unless I ask, and when I do ask, I let them tell me what they want,” Werling said.
She was on “pins and needles” during the protests that rocked the city at the end of May and into early June.
“I followed them as much as I could during the protests,” said Streeter, who has kept up with his former students. “I made sure I messaged them how much I supported them and to stay safe and let them know I was thinking of them.”
The twins now play in a 1990s grunge band, Wade’s World, Luke on drums he taught himself and Ben on guitar.
“They are soul buddies,” Werling said. “They’ve always got each other’s back. They do everything together.”