Dallas chief drops charge against Rylie man shot by officer

Dallas Morning News – by TANYA EISERER and TRISTAN HALLMAN

A day after a surveillance video went public showing a Dallas police officer shooting a mentally ill man for no apparent reason, Chief David Brown ordered that an aggravated assault charge against the wounded man be “immediately” dropped.

The chief’s decision Friday came amid a growing chorus of outrage and calls from civil rights activists and others that an outside law enforcement agency — such as the Texas Rangers or the FBI — investigate Monday’s shooting of Bobby Gerald Bennett.  

“The videotape just cries out for an independent investigation,” said Bill Wirskye, a former high-ranking Dallas County prosecutor. Wirskye is currently one of the special prosecutors in the Kaufman County district attorney slayings.

“Maybe there’s something that’s not in the video that would justify the officer’s actions, but at least based on the videotape and the documentation that I’ve seen, it’s not a justified shooting,” he said.

Wirskye said the department should welcome an outside investigation.

“It just takes away any charge that there’s some thin blue line of silence where officers are protecting their own,” he said.

Bennett, 52, remains in the intensive care unit at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas after being shot in the abdomen outside his home in the southeast Dallas neighborhood of Rylie.

Cardan Spencer, the police officer who shot him, has been placed on administrative leave indefinitely. His attorney, Robert Rogers, has previously said that “facts and circumstances known to Officer Spencer at the time completely justify his actions.” He declined to elaborate further, citing the investigation.

Spencer’s partner, Officer Christopher Watson, didn’t fire his gun and wasn’t placed on administrative leave.

911 call

According to police accounts, Spencer and Watson responded to the 9400 block of Crimnson Court on Monday afternoon after Bennett’s mother, Joyce Jackson, called police for help in dealing with her son.

Authorities have said that she told the 911 operator that Bennett was violent, had a knife and was throwing things at a garage door.

An arrest warrant affidavit listing Spencer as the victim of an aggravated assault said the officer shot Bennett after he walked toward him and his partner with a “knife raised in an aggressive manner.” Spencer fired his weapon four times, striking Bennett in the abdomen.

But a neighbor’s video surveillance recording contradicted that account.

On the video, Bennett, who was seated in a chair, initially rolls back from officers as they advance on him. He then stands up but does not move. His hands remain at his side and he is standing still when Spencer shoots him.

The video shows that less than 30 seconds elapsed from the time the officers pulled up in their squad car to when Spencer opened fire.

City Council member Dwaine Caraway called the officer’s actions “coldblooded” and called for “immediate action” of some kind. Otherwise, the national spotlight on the case will cause “a devastating blow to the department,” he said.

The Dallas Police Department has been under mounting criticism for more than a year over officer-involved shootings.

It began in the summer of 2012, when community activists became upset about a string of police-involved shootings. One of those incidents nearly sparked a riot in the Dixon Circle neighborhood when an officer fatally shot a suspected South Dallas drug dealer. That officer was cleared of charges.

More recently, one family has mounted a very public campaign over the fatal shooting last March of an unarmed man at an east Oak Cliff apartment complex. Authorities have said the man was choking the officer. An autopsy revealed the man had PCP in his system. A grand jury declined to indict the officer last week.

Brown has implemented a number of changes, including establishing an electronic system that tracks use of force incidents. He also mandated that the FBI be notified of all officer-involved shootings.

The chief declined to comment in detail on the Bennett shooting, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

At a Friday news conference, the Rev. Ronald Wright of Justice Seekers Texas said Spencer had no justification for shooting Bennett. Wright said Spencer’s account of the incident wouldn’t have been questioned if not for the tape.

“By the grace of God, the video camera caught this particular shooting,” Wright said.

He and others called on the Justice Department to investigate the Bennett shooting.

“There is a culture in the Dallas Police Department: Shoot first and ask questions later,” said the Rev. Peter Johnson.

Lawsuit planned

Meanwhile, Bennett’s mother retained prominent Dallas lawyer George Milner. He said Friday that he plans to file a lawsuit against the department.

“In my view, based upon review of the videotape, this officer crossed the line,” Milner said.

Orders from a judge and Brown allowed Bennett’s mother to visit her son Friday in the hospital. Dallas police had previously blocked her from seeing Bennett, citing the aggravated assault charge against him.

“You could pay me $10 million right now and it wouldn’t be worth anything just to see my son,” she said moments after her visit. “When I knew I was going to get up to see him, I was jumping up and down up in the cul-de-sac.”

She said that Bennett was alert and that he would survive. But he is expected to remain in the hospital for some time.

Bennett technically remains in police custody because of a parole violation on a previous felony theft conviction. He failed to report to his parole officer for several months, Milner said.

But it’s better than the alternative, he said.

“But for that video, that man would still be sitting under a lock and key looking at a life sentence,” Milner said.

teiserer@dallasnews.com;

thallman@dallasnews.com

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/headlines/20131017-video-shows-dallas-officer-shooting-man-standing-with-arms-at-his-side.ece

4 thoughts on “Dallas chief drops charge against Rylie man shot by officer

  1. EVERY POLICE DEPARTMENT has to NOW find out why the Police are gunning down people. Did it start in training of some type or Military hires ?

    Something is not right today the police have changed in the last 20 years,there were no gun dowsn like today

  2. DROPPED HIM TOO. IN RELATED NEWS;Update: Portland, Oregon (Previously reported 05-01-13): A police officer, who has been on paid administrative leave since mistakenly using live ammunition instead of bean bag rounds on a suspect, has been fired. The victim survived and was awarded more than $2 million for the incident. ow.ly/pUYOw OTHER PEOPLES MONEY

  3. This week’s cop murder was caught by a private security camera, and what we see here is a perfect example of how cops behave when they don’t think they’re being watched.

    That man was unarmed and 30 feet away, and they opened fire just to experience the sadistic pleasure of killing someone.

    They fact that they would even think of doing something like this is proof that this kind of brutality is OFFICIAL POLICY, because they obviously have no fear of facing any kind of justice for this obvious attempt at cold-blooded murder.

    How often does this happen when there are no cameras around?

    1. and they “dropped the charges” against the man they dropped. How sweet of them.

      What about filing charges against the murderers?

      Not a chance if they’re cops.

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