Fatima Johnson, an attorney for the family of Dreasjon Reed, said Saturday she was disappointed in a grand jury’s Tuesday decision not to indict the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer who fatally shot Reed.
“I am beyond disgusted that Dreasjon’s family was denied justice, that Dreasjon will not be afforded the privilege of finding justice inside a criminal courtroom,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Swaray Conteh, attorneys who represent Reed’s family, held a virtual news conference Saturday morning to discuss the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Dejoure Mercer.
Mercer shot 21-year-old Dreasjon Reed during a foot pursuit near West 62nd Street and Michigan Road on May 6. The shooting sparked protests and demands from some that Mercer face consequences.
But on Tuesday, special prosecutor Rosemary Khoury announced a grand jury had determined there wasn’t enough probable cause to charge Mercer with a crime. A separate investigation conducted by the Indiana State Police determined Reed was armed, that he drew his weapon and that he fired two shots, though whether he fired before or after the officer shot could not be determined. The family’s attorneys deny that Reed fired.
Johnson said the outcome was not surprising to her and many in Indianapolis’ Black community.
“In this case,” Johnson said, “the flaws of the justice system have been brought to the surface once again.”
The lawyers said that the evidence presented Tuesday by the Indiana State Police did not support the grand jury outcome and that multiple eyewitness accounts supported accounts that Reed did not fire at Mercer, as police have said.
“We are just asking the public to review the evidence that was presented by the state,” Conteh said. “It was a very shallow piece of work. Officer Mercer should have been indicted.”
What Dreasjon Reed investigation revealed: Video, audio tracks, gun analysis
The evidence that was presented to the grand jury will not be released publicly. But Indiana State Police Lt. Jeffrey Hearon recounted the events leading up to Reed’s death Tuesday, showing surveillance video from a nearby library and business. Zoomed-in images from the videos show portions of the foot pursuit, though the images are pixelated. Images from the Facebook Live show what police say is the butt of Reed’s gun tucked under the band of his shorts.
Police say Reed fell face down after Mercer used his Taser on him during the foot pursuit. They believe Reed then rolled over onto his buttocks while drawing a gun. Ballistics showed two casings from Reed’s gun were found at the scene. Another 13 casings found at the scene were determined to be from Mercer’s weapon.
As to the sequence of who shot when, Hearon said, “I don’t think we can definitively (say).”
Johnson said her office will now focus on its lawsuit against Mercer, the city, Deputy Chief Kendale Adams and Chief Randal Taylor with allegations including excessive force, wrongful death and battery. IMPD was removed as a defendant Oct. 28.
“Dejoure Mercer must be held accountable for the life he took,” Johnson said. “The city must answer for their role in hiring people like him.”
At a protest following the press conference, Johnson told IndyStar there is still demand for a federal investigation. Lawyers and Reed’s family have asked for the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate the incident separately, but Johnson said she doesn’t believe that request has been taken seriously so far.
“Hopefully, with some pressure, that will happen,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she ultimately hopes situations like this will not happen in the future.
“Who wants to be out here in the rain in November?” Johnson said of protesters who marched in drizzle and temperatures in the low 40s. “But these things continue to happen because they think that we will forget. And he’s not going to be forgotten.”
After the news conference, about 50 people marched near IMPD Northwest District, where Mercer was assigned at the time of the shooting. They chanted Reed’s name and called for defunding the police. Members of Reed’s family rode in a car painted with slogans.
A few protesters brought guns, as they have to other protests during the week. Nate Stoner, who has been coming out to protests since May in Indianapolis, said he carries a gun to protect other protesters.
“People are less likely to run you over, people are less likely to shoot you or beat you if they know that you have the capability to fight back,” Stoner said.
The protest went largely without issue, although there was one small confrontation between two men in a car shouting slogans in support of President Donald Trump and a number of protesters.
The group marched for about an hour. They dispersed over concerns about safety and the possible arrival of counter protesters, group security said.
Part of the shooting was captured on Reed’s Facebook Live, which he began recording while he was driving and before the foot pursuit.
According to IMPD, a vehicle pursuit started on I-65 near 30th Street around 6 p.m. May 6 when IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams saw Reed driving recklessly. Police said Reed’s car almost struck other vehicles while it exited the interstate.
Dreasjon Reed decision:Legal experts weigh in on the use of grand juries
Adams initiated a pursuit and IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, who was in a different car, aided. Once other officers joined the pursuit, Adams and Taylor stopped pursuing Reed.
But by 6:10 p.m. an IMPD sergeant ordered officers to stop due to how fast Reed was driving. Police said Mercer then saw Reed driving eastbound on 62nd Street before parking at a business. Both Mercer and Reed left their cars, and a foot pursuit began.
Dreasjon Reed lawsuit:Federal judge removes IMPD as defendant
Police said there was a confrontation between the two near the intersection of West 62nd Street and Michigan Road that involved an exchange of gunfire, and Mercer called in the shooting at 6:16 p.m. Police said Mercer used his service weapon after a Taser deployment was “ineffective.”
The officer cannot be seen in the Facebook Live video.
IndyStar reporter Lawrence Andrea contributed.
Contact Pulliam Fellow Lydia Gerike at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @LydiaGerike.