The chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department says the officers involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in June should be fired.
Officers Michal Dinnsen and Carlton Howard appeared before the department’s firearms review board Friday. After answering questions, the board unanimously decided the officers’ actions during the June 29 traffic stop of Aaron Bailey did not comply with the department’s training or policies.
A press release says Chief Bryan Roach determined “sufficient reason did not exist to believe that deadly force was necessary to affect the arrest of Mr. Bailey.” The release also says officers ignored their training for high-risk traffic stops and could have used options other than deadly force during the traffic stop.
“Although Mr. Bailey’s reported non-compliance with a lawful order to exit the car and his reported flight contributed to the situation, the officers’ use of deadly force without sufficient reason as outlined in General Order 1.30 – and failure to apply training designed to provide safety for all involved – rises to a level so far removed from accepted professional practice and community expectation that it severely damages public trust of its police department,” the release states.
Roach suspended the officers and is recommending their termination to the Civilian Police Merit Board.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett released a statement in response to the chief’s recommendation:
Indianapolis is blessed to have a police department made up of men and women that wake up each morning dedicated to protecting and serving this city. The work they do is difficult and at times dangerous, yet they remain steadfast in their commitment to building and strengthening bridges between our law enforcement and the community. We owe it to these brave officers to ensure that those who represent the police department, and our city, are upholding the high standards that make the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department one of the best in the country.
Throughout our history, Indianapolis has always been at its best when our residents are united by those compassionate principles that call us together as one city. And for two years, I have dedicated myself and this administration to the pursuit and furtherance of those things that unite us, rather than divide us. It is because of that work, and the resiliency I observe across our city every day, that I remain more confident than ever in the community and public safety leaders who continue to work to grow and deepen bonds of trust between our neighborhoods and police department.
Roach’s recommendation comes after a special prosecutor announced last week the officers won’t face criminal charges for the shooting. University of Missouri-St. Louis Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice David Klinger says the officers can be terminated without facing criminal charges because there’s a lower burden of proof for administrative proceedings.
“It is merely the preponderance of the evidence,” Klinger says. “That is, the police chief or the administrative body, whoever it is that is reviewing the case, says ‘It is our belief 50.0001 percent of the evidence that something was out of sorts with this event.’”
According to court documents from the special prosecutor’s investigation, Howard ran Bailey’s plates on June 29 after he failed to signal when changing lanes. Bailey showed up as a suspended driver, so Howard pulled him over. Court documents say Bailey told Howard his license was suspended and Howard responded by saying it wasn’t “a big deal.” At that point, court documents say Bailey became more nervous. Howard returned to his patrol car to run a check on Bailey and the passenger in his car, Shiwanda Ward. The database showed Bailey was a suspect in multiple robberies and Ward was “being monitored” for a homicide.
While Howard ran the check, Dinnsen arrived on the scene. As Howard approached the car and asked Bailey to step outside, court documents say Bailey refused and drove off. After a short pursuit, Bailey’s car crashed into a tree. Court documents say 18 seconds later Dinnsen radioed dispatchers to let them know of an officer-involved shooting.
Howard told investigators when he approached Bailey’s car after the crash he saw Bailey rummaging near the center console and couldn’t see his hands, so he thought Bailey was reaching for a gun.
Klinger says there’s a chance the chief isn’t happy with what happened even before the shooting.
“Typically officers are trained to stay back behind cover with their vehicle as opposed to running up on a suspect vehicle because it’s dangerous for police officers to be standing out in open space and to give commands and to order the suspect out of the vehicle,” he says.
An autopsy determined Bailey was shot four times. Police never found a weapon on him.
Bailey’s family filed a lawsuit against the city in September alleging excessive use of force.