INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Two Indianapolis police officers fighting to keep their jobs gave emotional testimony in a hearing Thursday in connection with the death of Aaron Bailey last year.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Merit Board will decide if the officers, Carlton Howard and Michal Dinnsen, should be fired. Following a high speed chase and crash last June, the officers shot and killed 45-year-old Aaron Bailey. Bailey was unarmed.
The controversial shooting took place just 18 seconds after Bailey crashed his car.
IMPD Chief Bryan Roach recommended the officers be terminated because they did not follow their training.
On Thursday, both officers teared up at times while telling their side of the story. Both men admit the shooting was awful, but they don't think they should have to lose their jobs.
They testified Bailey's sudden movements inside the car after the crash forced them to open fire.
Howard and Dinnsen say Bailey ignored their commands, with Howard standing at the side of the car and Dinnsen at the rear. Dinnsen then tearfully explained why he pulled the trigger.
"At that point he turned toward officer Howard. I believed he had a gun and was going to shoot officer Howard, and so I shot into the back of the car," he said.
Officer Howard testified for two days in a row that he feared for his life in the moments before the shooting.
"I don't think I could have waited a split second. My whole heart I thought I was going to be shot that night," said Howard.
Both officers admitted to knowing now that Bailey did not have a weapon in the car. They said that fact has taken an emotional toll on them.
"You know the fact that he was unarmed. That's my burden to carry. Dinnsen's burden to carry," said Howard. "I wouldn't want someone to go through this whether they're armed or unarmed. It's awful having to take someone else's life."
“It’s never something I wanted to do or be a part of. I didn’t become a police officer to do this,” said Dinnsen. “It’s a traumatic incident for everyone involved. I feel terrible about what transpired and think about it all the time.”
Both officers called for better training from the department to try and prevent this sort of shooting from happening again.
The Merit Board will make their decision based on a simple majority vote.
Criminal charges were not filed against the officers, but Bailey’s family has filed a civil lawsuit in the case.