Officer Who Shot Mentally Ill Rylie Man Could Be First Dallas Cop Charged in a Police Shooting Since 1973
Here's what's happened since video surfaced of Dallas police officer Cardan Spence shooting a mentally ill 52-year-old in the stomach, apparently for standing up from the chair he was sitting in: activists have called for a civil rights investigation; The Dallas Morning News has written a hand-wringing paean to the dangers of police work; Mayor Mike Rawlings has called the footage "disturbing"; Police Chief David Brown barred media from a public meeting, then invited them to Chili's.
So far, aside from Brown's decision to drop aggravated assault charges against Bobby Gerald Bennett, it's mostly been talk. That could soon change.
The Dallas Morning News' Tanya Eiserer talked to a number of former prosecutors and defense attorneys, all of whom (with the exception of Spence's) agree that Spence will be indicted when his case is brought before a grand jury, likely on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
If that happens, Spence will be the first Dallas cop to face charges in an officer-involved shooting since Darrell Cain was indicted for shooting 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez, according to the News.
And how could he not be? Contrary what was contained in officers' affidavit, Bennett did not raise his knife or come at the officers in an aggressive manner. He was sitting in a swivel chair on a Rylie cul-de-sac.
The question, then, is whether the video will be enough to convince a jury to convict Spence. The knee-jerk reaction of the public -- and, as Grits for Breakfast pointed out in an interesting post yesterday, the media -- is to defer to the cop. Under those circumstances, it's tough to convince a dozen people that an officer didn't feel his life was in danger.
Rarely, though, is the evidence quite as plain as it is in this case, which is still no guarantee that he will be convicted or, if he is, that he will be given a severe punishment. When Cain shot Santos Rodriguez 40 years ago, he wound up serving five years in prison for murder.
Things have clearly changed since then. The question is, how much.