INDIANAPOLIS — A Special Grand Jury cleared IMPD Officer De’Joure Mercer of any criminal charges in the May, 2020 fatal officer-involved shooting of Dreasjon Reed.
A subsequent internal IMPD review found Mercer did not violate any department policies during the vehicle and foot pursuit and exchange of gunfire that ended the 21-year-old man’s life in the 6200 block of North Michigan Road.
An Indiana State Police investigation included video from Reed’s own live streaming of the incident that revealed he fired at Officer Mercer first.
Despite the evidence and the results of the investigations, Reed’s family sued IMPD and late last week it was announced that the city would pay his mother $390,000 to settle the lawsuit.
” It’s not an admission of guilt. It’s in the long-term best interests of all parties,” Mayor Joe Hogsett told Fox 59 News. ”The alternative is to spend even more money in a lengthy trial without any thought about how that outcome would affect the taxpayers, so I would rather resolve the issue sooner than pay more money later.”
Public disclosure of the Reed settlement came the same week that Anthony Maclin announced he intends to sue IMPD and the three officers who shot him after he was awakened in the front seat of a car in his grandmother’s driveway on December 31st of last year.
Last month, the attorney representing the family of Herman Whitfield released body-worn camera video, obtained during a federal lawsuit, of three officers who tackled the northside man in his parents’ home during a mental illness issue last spring. The officers left Whitfield handcuffed and in the facedown prone position on the floor where he stopped breathing and was later declared dead.
On Monday, Attorney Robert Turner filed a lawsuit on behalf of his client who was injured during a takedown by IMPD officers on Monument Circle in October 2021, as departmental body-worn camera video captured an officer allegedly striking Jermaine Vaughn on the head as he was in handcuffs and subdued.
”My client was restrained. He was handcuffed and he was laying down and it just looked like the officer kind of lost control there for a while and delivered a kick to his head and caused injury,” said Turner. ”He’s not asking for any specific amount, he obviously thinks that his rights were violated and that is being addressed in a civil rights complaint pending in federal court.”
A Fox 59 News investigation determined that between the years of 2015 and 2020, the city paid out more than $16 million to settle lawsuits filed against IMPD.
While many of those lawsuits resulted from traffic crashes, others alleged injuries and civil rights violations by officers during arrests.
Attorney Craig Karpe won a $650,000 settlement for the family of Aaron Bailey, an unarmed fleeing motorist who was shot to death by IMPD officers in 2017.
He also negotiated an undisclosed settlement for the family of Paul Daniels, a man who died in police custody during a mental illness episode in 2018 in a case similar to the death of Herman Whitfield.
”Each one indicates a failure by the police officers to follow best practices,” said Karpe. ”They put our client face down as well. Leaned on his back. Had him handcuffed from behind and he expired at the scene as well because he was unable to breathe and this is well documented that this is something that will happen.”
Before entering private practice, Turner retired after a career at the Indianapolis Police Department that led to a stint as public safety director under Mayor Bart Peterson during which time he was often asked to weigh in on city settlements to resolve lawsuits filed against police officers.
”I don’t think IPD is any worse than any other police department,” said Turner. “There’s going to be times where officers either fail to follow their training or they just weren’t properly trained in the first place.
”There’s been a number of incidents here locally that I think had the police department had a little better, not just training, but also equipment, sometimes the city just doesn’t give the police officers what they need to do a good job.”
Turner said in light of the civil unrest that occurred after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, city leaders and police will often settle as opposed to fighting lawsuits that could result in protests outside of courthouses during trials or after unpopular verdicts.
”Sometimes the wiser decision is to pay $380,000 to prevent four million dollars worth of damage to your city,” he said.
Settlement of a lawsuit effectively cuts off further depositions of officers involved in the incident or the disclosure of training, disciplinary or internal police review documents under the rules of Discovery.
“It’s not an admission of anybody in terms of guilt, certainly not on the officer’s behalf,” said Mayor Hogsett when asked if lawsuit settlements like the Reed case may provide other persons an excuse to sue in anticipation of a large if unearned payday. “I don’t believe that it necessarily encourages people to sue the city. If somebody has a valid claim, they are able to take it to court and pursue it and that’s just the system.”
Turner said IMPD lawsuit settlements footed by taxpayers are just among the costs citizens of Marion County pay to keep their streets safe.
”You’re always gonna need police,” he said, “because people are violent.”