Evansville, Ind., cops caught beating a handcuffed man, then lying about it. They won’t face charges.
Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:
On Oct. 29, Evansville, Ind., police officers Nick Henderson, Mark DeCamps and Marcus Craig confronted 36-year-old Mark Healy while investigating a garage burglary. According to the officers, Healy resisted when they confronted him, and a physical altercation ensued. During that altercation, Healy broke free and began to run away. When again confronted, he stabbed one of the officers with a syringe filled with liquid methamphetamine. The officers then physically restrained Healy and arrested him.
That, according to local media reports, is what the police use-of-force report said. It was filed by the officers involved about three hours after the incident. A fourth officer, a sergeant, reviewed the report and deemed the officers’ actions justified.
But body camera footage from the incident obtained by the Evansville Courier & Press shows something quite different. In the footage, Healy doesn’t resist at all. And the officer who was stuck by the syringe wasn’t stabbed by Healy, he was pricked by the needle while Healy was handcuffed. Contrary to department procedure, the officer failed to ask Healy if he had anything in his pockets before searching him. As you can see in the video, as one of the officers searches Healy, he pricks himself on the syringe. He then calls Healy a “motherf—–” and strikes him. As Healy lays on the ground, Henderson and another officer then spend about three minutes beating him, yelling at him and threatening to kill him. The third officer just watches.
To his credit, upon viewing the video, Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin immediately suspended all three officers at the scene as well as the sergeant who reviewed the case. He also recommended the three at the scene be fired and that the sergeant be demoted. That seems appropriate. But in addition to the beating the officers applied to Healy, they also clearly lied in their report. Both would seem to merit criminal charges.
It has now been six weeks since the incident, and all four officers remain on paid leave while their appeal is under review. Meanwhile, according to the Courier & Press, the Indiana State Police (ISP) investigated the incident and sent a report to Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nicholas Hermann. Last Thursday, Hermann announced that he will not press charges against the officers involved. I asked an ISP information officer for a copy of the report. By email, he replied that “our criminal investigations are not available to the public.”
During the news conference, Hermann explained at length his reasoning behind the decision — without outright saying he wasn’t pressing charges until several minutes in. He said his office could not prove Henderson purposefully struck Healy in a malicious manner. According to talks with Henderson and his attorney, Hermann said the officer struck the suspect with his elbow after pricking his hand on a needle that was in Healy’s pocket.
He said there was no evidence Healy was ever punched. Hermann played a statement Healy gave to police immediately after the incident in which he said there were “no punches thrown.”
This is meaningless parsing posing as legal jargon. The video clearly depicts Henderson striking Healy to the ground. That you don’t see what specific body part Henderson used to initiate that strike isn’t particularly relevant. If this video had been of a citizen striking a police officer, I doubt Hermann would have had much problem filing charges.
But let’s give Hermann the benefit of the doubt here. So what about the police report, which clearly contradicts what we see in the body camera footage? Surely that merits criminal charges, right? . . .
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