Dallas officer indicted in shooting of mentally ill man

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by TANYA EISERER

Bio | Email | Follow: @tanyaeiserer

WFAA

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 29 at 11:12 PM

DALLAS — A Dallas County grand jury has indicted a former police officer who shot a mentally ill disabled man, according to several sources with knowledge of the situation.

The man was standing still with a knife in his hand last October when he was shot.

Cardan Spencer was indicted in the shooting of Bobby Bennett, who survived. Spencer will likely face an aggravated assault charge. News 8 first broke the story last October after a neighbor’s surveillance video showed the original police account was inaccurate.

Spencer is the second Dallas officer in less than one week to be indicted over an on-duty police shooting. Last week, the same grand jury indicted former Senior Cpl. Amy Wilburn on an aggravated assault charge over the shooting of an unarmed carjacking suspect.  

Wilburn’s indictment was the first time a Dallas police officer was indicted over an on-duty police shooting since 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez was fatally wounded at the hands of an officer in 1973.

The circumstances that led to Spencer’s indictment began on Oct. 14, 2013, when he and Officer Christopher Watson responded to a 911 call in the 9400 block of Crimson Court. Bennett’s mother, Joyce Jackson, called 911 to ask for help in dealing with her son. She told a 911 operator that Bennett was violent, in possession of a knife and throwing objects at a garage door.

Spencer and Watson said they thought Bennett was coming at them with a weapon raised.  Police said Bennett told the officers they would have to kill him.

Spencer fired his gun four times and Bennett was hit in the abdomen.

However, the neighbor’s surveillance video revealed Bennett had his hands down by his side and wasn’t coming at the officers.

The video showed Bennett was initially seated in a chair when officers arrived on the scene. It then showed him roll the chair back as the officers walked toward him. He then stood up, but didn't move. His hands were at his side and he was standing still when Spencer shot him. It all occurred within seconds of the officers' arrival.

In January, a Dallas attorney filed a federal lawsuit against the city, Spencer, and Watson over the shooting. The lawsuit alleged - among other things - that Dallas police falsely accused Bennett of aggravated assault while initially ignoring evidence to the contrary.

Investigators had seen the video prior to writing an aggravated assault warrant on Bennett. The charges were only dropped after neighbor Maurice Bunch’s video became public and drew national attention.

At the time, Police Chief David Brown defended the decision to charge Bennett with aggravated assault, saying, “The unfortunate thing here is that Officer Watson’s statement really overrode what the video showed.”

He said then that the department was trying to verify that the video was authentic and said the department puts a premium on the word of officers.

In firing Spencer, Brown said that “officers are not above the law. We as a police department are not going to look the other way. We are not going to sweep officer misconduct under the rug.”

In Wilburn's case, she faces the first-degree felony charge over the Dec. 9 shooting of 19-year-old Kelvion Walker. Wilburn and other police officers were chasing carjacking suspects at the time of the shooting.

She told internal investigators that she believed Walker was reaching for a weapon. An independent witness told News 8 that Walker had his hands up and showed no sign of a weapon.

The grand jury officially returned Wilburn’s indictment on Tuesday and an arrest warrant was issued for Wilburn.

E-mail

teiserer@wfaa.com

 

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