DALLAS –– If Joyce Jackson had to choose between a pile of millions of dollars and walking into Baylor Medical Center Friday afternoon, she said she wouldn’t have batted an eye at that money.
She had not seen her mentally ill adult son since Monday, after a Dallas police officer shot him in the abdomen while he stood in the middle of a cul-de-sac with his arms at his sides. Bobby Gerard Bennett has been in serious condition since, recovering at Baylor’s intensive care unit.
“It was so good to get to see my son, there’s nothing like it,” Jackson said outside the hospital. “I couldn’t touch his hand or anything but he was alert and being able to just sit in the chair beside him and talk and know that he was going to be OK was like, you could pay me $10 million right now and it wouldn’t be worth anything to me.”
On Oct. 14, Bennett was agitated. Jackson said she wouldn’t let the 53-year-old take a drawing to his grandmother because it was pouring rain outside. This sent him into a fit, she said, and he went outside their home in the 9400 block of Crimnson Court and began pacing in the cul-de-sac.
He had a knife with a blade no larger than three inches, she said. And Bennett, who suffers from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, was off his medication and had been drinking. That much she told the 911 emergency dispatcher, who sent two officers in a single cruiser to the home.
Bennett was outside, sitting in a swivel chair smoking a cigarette he got from a neighbor whose home surveillance system happened to capture the entire incident.
Eight seconds after Ofc. Cardan Spencer and his partner exited the vehicle, Spencer fired four shots at Bennett. A bullet zipped into his gut. He doubled over in pain and was placed in handcuffs and charged with aggravated assault of a public servant. A police affidavit detailing the incident says Bennett “took several steps toward them with the knife raised in an aggressive manner.”
But neighbor Maurice Bunch’s surveillance footage appears to tell a different story. Bennett is seen pushing the swivel chair he was sitting in backward and standing up straight. He didn’t move and he kept his arms at his sides. In the video, he’s never seen raising a knife to officers. Spencer still shot him from between 15 and 20 feet away.
On Friday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown ordered the criminal charges against Bennett dropped, which allowed Jackson to finally see her son. Ofc. Spencer is on indefinite administrative leave. His partner has not been reprimanded.
Brown said the department is investigating and the findings will be forwarded to the district attorney. Police have had the tape since Monday and did not reference it until News 8 acquired it and asked for a response.
On Friday night, Mayor Mike Rawlings said he has consciously chosen not to watch the footage and is awaiting a briefing from Brown.
“I decided not to look at it,” he said from the Arts District. “I decided to let the chief talk to me in a professional way, brief me the way it needs to be briefed, not get caught up in the blogosphere and all the things that are happening.”
On Friday, the department released the radio call that Spencer and his partner heard on the way to scene.
"It sounds like he might be a handful; her schizophrenic, bi-polar, 53-year-old son having an episode. Very violent. Says he might have a knife. And he's throwing property out of a garage," the dispatcher says.
Bunch, the neighbor whose surveillance footage captured the incident, said Bennett was not being violent. He was agitated, but was in control. Bunch spoke with Bennett before the police arrived.
“Now, you see him pacing and walking? I mean, that’s normal to me,” Bunch told News 8 on Thursday. “Somebody else that may see it, that may not be normal. But he walks and paces, smokes a cigarette, that’s normal.”
Hours before the department dropped the charges against Bennett, Justice Seekers Texas held a press conference to request the Department of Justice investigate the shooting and the 21 officer involved shootings that preceded it.
“Do we need Dallas police? Absolutely, but we need them to protect and serve not protect and kill,” said Rev. Ronald Wright, a spokesman for Justice Seekers Texas.
Dallas police have not answered any specific questions regarding the incident. In an email Thursday night, Brown wrote, “"We will be careful to make further comments given the legal procedural due process issues involved with an investigation of this nature.”
Councilman Dwaine Caraway has seen the video and refuted the department’s account.
“This man did absolutely nothing, this man did absolutely nothing. His hands were by his side,” Caraway said. The only move he made is when he was falling to the ground after being shot.”
Ofc. Spencer’s attorney, Robert Rogers, has defended his client and said he had reason to shoot Bennett.
"The facts and circumstances known to Officer Spencer at the time completely justify his actions," Rogers said on Thursday. "Obviously there is much more to this situation than that video."
George Milner, the Dallas-based attorney representing Bennett’s mother, said he looked forward to seeing Rogers’ evidence. He called the surveillance footage “compelling” and said he has already launched his own investigation into the shooting.
"You want to believe it does not happen and if we did not have the video recording we would be today believing it didn't happen," Milner said.
Meanwhile, Bennett is stable at Baylor Medical Center. Milner said he expects him to have a long recovery ahead.