Dallas Police Officer Fired, Charged With Shooting Mentally Ill Man
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – The Dallas police officer caught on camera shooting a mentally ill man 10 days ago has been fired. Dallas Police Chief David Brown also indicated Officer Cardan Spencer could be facing an Aggravated Assault charge , a first degree felony. CBS 11 News learned that when DPD officials presented to warrant for Spencer to a judge he refused to sign it. The case is now being referred to a grand jury for possible indictment.
Christopher Watson, the second officer on the scene, has been placed on restricted duty and will be investigated by Internal Affairs, said Brown.
A disciplinary hearing for the two officers began at 10 a.m. on Thursday, after which Brown spoke to the media for the first time about the shooting.
Family members say 52-year-old Bobby Bennett is mentally ill and was not on his medication when he was shot by police on October 14.
A videotape shows what happened after Bennett’s mother called for police help.
Officer Spencer claimed he fired because Bennett, who was outside his southeast Dallas home, had a knife and lunged at him. Officer Watson had given a statement claiming Bennett “took two steps and raised the knife in an aggressive manner.” But video captured by a neighbor’s surveillance camera shows Bennett didn’t appear to move toward the officers before he was shot and crumpled to the ground. After seeing the tape Watson modified his statement.
Bennett initially was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a public servant, but Brown announced last week that the charge would be dropped.
George Milner, an attorney representing the family, spoke to reporters while awaiting Chief Brown’s statement.
“What happened 10 days ago should have never have happened in the first place, and I want to make sure it never happens again,” said Milner, who said Bennett was shot in “cold blood.”
“Officers are not above the law,” Chief Brown said as he began his nearly hour-long statement to reporters. “We are not going to look the other way. We are not going to sweep officer misconduct under the rug.”
Chief Brown also offered an apology to Bennett and his family, and explained why it took ten days to complete the investigation before the Spencer was fired and charged.
“What I have found to be true is rushed investigations and employment actions is wrought with mistakes, knee-jerk reactions and perceptions of partiality,” said Brown. “Rushed decisions…under this circumstances have led to not guily verdicts and employment actions being overturned.”
Brown said it took “great restraint” to wait this long to address the media and public about this shooting.
Mayor Mike Rawlings released the following statement after Brown’s news conference:
“I support our police force and believe Dallas has one of the best departments in the country. We must keep it pure of any perceptions of wrongdoing, and that’s exactly what Chief Brown has done by handling this investigation thoroughly and expediently.”
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