DALLAS –– Police Chief David Brown on Thursday fired the officer who made thousands of dollars off falsified insurance claims and suspended the policeman who lied in a sworn affidavit following the October shooting of a mentally ill man.
Ofc. Cortenay Howard was formally fired “for engaging in adverse conduct when he filed a fraudulent insurance claim.”
Ofc. Christopher Watson was suspended 15 days for telling an investigator that Bobby Bennett, a mentally ill man whose mother called police when he became enraged, stepped toward him and his partner, Ofc. Cardan Spencer, with a knife “raised in an aggressive manner.”
Surveillance footage captured from a camera on a neighbor’s home showed that Bennett was standing still when Spencer shot him in the stomach. He spent more than two weeks at the intensive Baylor Medical Center before being moved to the Dallas VA Medical Center, according to his attorney George Milner.
Watson did not fire his service weapon that day.
Spencer was fired on Oct. 24, the day Brown ordered an investigation into Watson’s claims. Brown said he asked to amend his statement after seeing the surveillance footage of the shooting on the news. He said he remembered things out of sequence because of “acute stress.”
“What we need to get to the bottom of, there were no two steps. There was no raising of the knife,” Brown said then. “Acute stress, from where I sit at least, doesn’t make you hallucinate.”
Chief Brown announced the punishments Thursday during disciplinary hearings.
On Nov. 4, internal affairs investigators suggested Ofc. Howard be fired for collecting thousands of dollars on phony insurance claims. After filing a claim alleging that his BMW was among the vehicles damaged by a hailstorm in June 2012, the National Insurance Crime Bureau flagged the claim and opened an investigation.
The dents he said were caused by hail “were not uniform in size, shape and depth,” an investigator found. Thus: “The dents were not consistent with damage caused by hail.”
Howard also faked a towing receipt when investigators asked for proof that his car was towed from North Park Mall after the storm. Howard, who was investigated 15 times in his 11 years with the department, had previously been reprimanded for using unnecessary force, violating the department’s off-duty employment policy and going AWOL, according to his disciplinary history.
Brown also fired Adam Conway, a 15-year veteran whose drunken driving charge was tossed out by the Rockwall County district attorney’s office due to a procedural error, the Dallas Morning News reports. Conway was involved in a three-vehicle wreck and had a blood alcohol content of .187, which is more than double the legal limit of .08.
Ofc. Ramon Gonzalez was also suspended for failing to report compensation he was not entitled to receive.
All of the disciplined officers can appeal their punishments.