INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The mother of a black man who was killed by an Indianapolis police officer filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the city, its police department and four officers, including the one who fired the fatal shots.
The lawsuit alleges the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department failed to adequately train, screen and supervise officers to prevent them from engaging in excessive or deadly force, including Dejoure Mercer, the black police officer who shot and killed Dreasjon “Sean” Reed on May 6 during a foot chase.
The complaint says Mercer’s “use of excessive and deadly force resulted in the unlawful shooting death” of Reed, 21, and alleges his constitutional right to due process was violated. It seeks unspecified damages.
Reed’s mother, Demetree Wynn, watched with her attorneys and relatives as white doves were released during a news conference Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Indianapolis to mark what would have been Reed’s 22nd birthday.
“I can’t stand with him because he was taken away from me. Now he’s flying away and I can’t bring him back,” she said tearfully, before adding, “This fight’s not over.”
Police have said they began pursuing Reed after officers, including Chief Randal Taylor, saw someone driving recklessly on Interstate 65. Supervisors ordered an end to that pursuit because the vehicle was going nearly 90 mph (145 kph), police said. An officer later spotted the car on a city street and chased Reed on foot before police say Reed and the officer exchanged gunfire.
Assistant Chief Chris Bailey has said a gun found near Reed appeared to have been fired at least twice. Attorneys for Reed's family have insisted that he didn’t exchange gunfire with the officer who shot him.
The suit names Mercer, Taylor, Deputy Chief Kendale Adams, and another African American officer, Steven Scott, who was disciplined after he was captured on video after the shooting saying: “I think it’s going to be a closed casket, homie,” an apparent reference to a closed-casket funeral.
Attorney Swaray Conteh said Reed’s family hopes the lawsuit will help them gain access to evidence in the case. He said the family does not trust the police department and has requested but not received the coroner’s report on Reed’s autopsy.
The lawsuit comes at a time of nationwide protests against police brutality and discrimination following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Conteh said the family is seeking federal oversight of the investigation into Reed’s killing, but has not yet received a response to those requests. He said he believes the lawsuit will help that cause.
Conteh said the complaint is not intended to thwart the investigation by deputy Madison County prosecutor Rosemary Khoury who was appointed as a special prosecutor to probe Reed’s death.
“We are not trying to circumvent the special prosecutor. She can do her job,” Conteh said.
A spokeswoman for Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett referred questions about the lawsuit to the city’s Office of Corporation Counsel, which said in a statement that it couldn't comment on pending litigation.
The Associated Press on Tuesday left messages for an Indianapolis police spokeswoman seeking comment.