UPDATE: Robert Lawson was convicted on Nov. 2, 2021, by a jury of multiple felony charges.
He was found guilty of official misconduct, a Level 6 felony; perjury, a Level 6 felony and false informing, a Class B misdemeanor.
Lawson’s conviction stems from video that captured the altercation by a third party on scene.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said Lawson has been suspended without pay pending a recommendation for termination to the civilian police merit board.
Original story follows:
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer has been charged after a video surfaced of a confrontation involving the officer and an IPS student.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said charges against Officer Robert Lawson include battery, obstruction of justice, perjury, false informing and official misconduct. The battery and false informing charges are misdemeanors while the obstruction of justice, perjury and official misconduct charges are felonies.
Curry said the charges stem from statements Lawson made in official documentation following the Aug. 29 confrontation. Curry said Lawson stated he hit the teen with an open palm strike because he believed the teen was about to hit him. He also said the palm strike was successful and that officers cuffed the teen without further force.
Those statements were believed to be “false and contrary” to video evidence of the incident, according to Curry’s office. Video appeared to show the officer punching the student. A second video showed the juvenile also sustained a knee strike while he was being handcuffed.
According to charging documents, Lawson said another officer present during the encounter saw the teen swing his fist at Lawson before Lawson struck the teen. However, the second officer denied making the statement that the 17-year-old swung his fist. Officers were at the school in response to a fight.
Lawson has been suspended without pay. The teen’s family has filed a federal lawsuit in the case.
Lawson is expected to turn himself in through arrangements made by his attorney John Kautzman.
Kautzman released the following statement about his client on Tuesday morning:
“We look forward to a full and fair review of ALL the evidence in this case, including the officer’s observations, perceptions and training as it relates to the entirety of this encounter.”
IMPD Chief Bryan Roach said Lawson is suspended with a recommendation of termination:
The IMPD Special Investigations Unit conducted a criminal investigation into the events that occurred at Shortridge High School on August 29, and presented findings to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. After the filing of formal criminal charges by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Officer Robert Lawson has been placed on suspension without pay, with a recommendation of termination to the civilian oversight Merit Board.
We strive to hold ourselves to a high standard and will continue to review this incident and others to identify ways we can improve as an agency. The women and men who serve our city remain focused on building trust with our neighbors and working together with the community to make Indianapolis a safer place for every resident.
IPS released the following statement about the charges:
“Superintendent Aleesia Johnson and the IPS Board of School Commissioners are supportive of the decision made today by Prosecutor Curry. We will continue to monitor this situation as it is adjudicated. We will also continue to work with everyone in our community to make sure that all of our children are provided a safe and secure learning environment.”
Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) issued this statement:
“We are aware of the announcement made today by the Marion County Prosecutor. We recognize such a decision is not made lightly and have confidence in the criminal justice process. As this matter moves forward, we continue to gather further information as to the specific details that led to the Prosecutor’s decision. Our city’s police officers are professionally trained and held to high standards inclusive of public, peer and judicial review. These prescribed steps are in place and should be based upon facts and due consideration. In such instances, we see all too often the value of ensuring a full review and fair process for anyone involved, including the accused; whether a citizen, an elected official or a police officer. Everyone in our society deserves a fair and impartial review of their actions, including Officer Lawson. In the interim, we ask for our community’s continued support of our police officers while they continue to serve our city and keep us safe.”