DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A grand jury indicted a former North Texas police officer Monday on a manslaughter count after he fired 41 times at a fleeing unarmed suspect who died from gunshot wounds.
The Dallas County grand jury indicted Patrick Tuter, 33, in the August 2012 death of Michael Vincent Allen. Tuter was working as a Garland officer when he became involved in a high-speed chase with Allen that ended in nearby Mesquite.
Tuter fired on the vehicle driven by the unarmed 25-year-old Wylie resident. Tuter was fired in March after an investigation determined he violated department policies on pursuits and use of force.
Police video showed the pursuit of a white pickup truck resembling one involved in a previous chase in a nearby town. After a half hour chase at high speeds, police cornered the truck in a cul-de-sac in nearby Mesquite. Tuter opened fire on the truck, reloading at least once, wounding Allen three times. Police initially said Tuter opened fire after Allen rammed a patrol car trying to pin him into the dead-end street. However, police dashboard video later showed that it was Tuter’s patrol car that crashed into the truck, not the other way around.
The manslaughter charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Tuter’s attorney, John Snider, told a North Texas newspaper last year that Allen’s actions led Tuter to believe he was armed.
However, an attorney for the families of Allen and Bennett says the shooting is part of a disturbing trend. The indictment comes after a police shooting last month in Dallas that raised questions about the police use of lethal force.
According to a Dallas police report, Officer Cardan Spencer shot Bobby Gerald Bennett on October 14 after the 52-year-old man lunged at him and another officer with a knife. However, video taken by a nearby surveillance camera showed Bennett did not appear to move toward the officers before he was shot and crumpled to the ground.
Also, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said two people who had witnessed the shooting from a nearby parked vehicle later came forward and corroborated what could be seen on the video. Brown apologized for shooting and said Spencer had been fired, and police later said a judge had directed that Spencer’s case go to a grand jury.
Spencer’s attorney, Robert Lee Rogers, has said he expects a grand jury will find that his client’s actions were justified.
Don Tittle has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Garland police on behalf of Allen’s family.
“More and more, we’re learning that the account given by the police officer is not what actually occurred,” he told the newspaper. “That should be pretty alarming. It should certainly cause you to wonder in cases where there’s no video at all and the officer just claims that the person made an aggressive move and they may or may not find a weapon on the person.”
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