The Dallas police officer who shot an unarmed, mentally ill man in the stomach has been fired, Dallas Police Chief Brown announced at a news conference today. Brown also said that the police officer, Cardan Spencer, would face a first degree felony charge of aggravated assault, but the department later announced that the case will be referred to a grand jury.
Joyce Jackson called the police on her 53-year-old son on October 14 because she was afraid he would hurt himself. Her son, Bobby Bennett, is bipolar and schizophrenic. He had been off of his medication for a few months, after his last prescription seemed to knock him out completely. "He can be eating, and then all of a sudden he's just out," Jackson told Unfair Park in an interview, "and he'll have food in his mouth or whatever. That's over-dosing I think."
As he sat on the cul-de-sac of the residential street where he lived holding a knife, Jackson asked the 911 dispatcher why police were taking so long to arrive. The dispatcher was reassured her. "She said, 'We're getting special officers out there to you Ms. Jackson."
But not long after the police car with Officer Spencer and Officer Christopher Watson pulled up, Jackson heard four gun shots.
At first, it was Bennett who the faced criminal charges. In an interview at her home, Jackson cried as she recalled seeing officers roll her son over to put him in handcuffs. "There's no way my son could do anything to him, on the ground out there, on the cement."
The police charged Bennett with aggravated assault and accused him of aggressively approaching them with a knife. But a surveillance video, captured by neighbor Maurice Bunch and leaked to the media, appeared to vindicate Bennett. Last week, Brown announced that he was dropping Bennett's aggravated assault charges.
Bunch actually showed the video to the police before leaking it to the media. Brown said that the DPD pursued charges against the victim even after seeing the video because the police report, which was written by Watson, "overrode" the video.
"The unfortunate thing here is that Officer Watson's statement really overrode what the video showed," Brown said. "We had not at that point determined if the video captured the entire incident, or if the video had not been altered in any way. We put a lot of credibility on officer's statements until we have other evidence to prove otherwise."
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Jackson didn't witness the shooting; she was trying to run outside as it happened, and heard the shots as she turned her back. By the time she made it out through her garage, she saw her son lying in the street. She tried to run to him, she said, but the officers yelled at her to get back.
"Those two officers stood in the cul-de-sac, the shooter picking up the bullets, which is a crime scene, "Jackson said. "They were just walking around the cul-de-sac before they ever even attended to my son, picking it up , putting it in their pocket, walking around like they're dazed."
Asked about those allegations, Brown said he hadn't heard about the officers picking anything up. "I don't recall any reports showing that Spencer picked up his own casings. But I'll definitely follow-up with you on that," he told Unfair Park. The police later issued a statement saying the officer was picking up his radio.
Jackson said Bennett is now awake and talking. "He remembers being shot, he remembers his stomach being on fire inside, but he doesn't remember anything else."