For 41 years, no Dallas police officer faced charges for an on-duty shooting. With Tuesday's indictment of former officer Carden Spencer, there have been two in the past week.
Spencer, if you'll recall, shot a mentally ill man in a Rylie cul-de-sac in October. He and his partner said the man, 52-year-old Bobby Gerald Bennett, charged at them with a knife, but a neighbor's surveillance video called that account into question. Bennett was sitting in a chair when officers arrived. Spencer, the video shows, opens fire when Bennett stands up, hitting him four times in the stomach.
Bennett survived -- he's now suing DPD -- and the aggravated assault on a public servant charge against him, for supposedly charging officers with a raised knife, was dropped after the neighbor's video emerged.
Spencer, like Wilburn, is being charged with aggravated assault, according to WFAA.
The announcement was welcomed as a positive step by Mothers Against Police Brutality, the activist group founded by Collette Flanagan after her unarmed son was killed by Dallas police. But the circumstances that led to the Wilburn and Spencer indictments -- in the former case, an eye witness, backed by dash cam footage, saying the unarmed victim had his hands in the air, in the latter, a fortuitously placed surveillance camera -- are exceptional, the group says, and charges are still too rare.
"While this is some progress, we will continue to work to hold DPD accountable for shooting DEATHS even when there is no video and all forensic and witness tell us that our children were murdered by policemen," the group wrote on its Facebook page on Tuesday. "There is still justice needed for victims and families that lives have been taken by these policemen that got a "pass" we will not rest until we bring these killers in uniform to justice."
There's also considerable distance between an indictment and a conviction, and between a conviction and just punishment. The cop who murdered 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez in 1973 was convicted but was sentenced to a mere five years.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.
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