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Two weeks ago, a Dallas police officer claimed he was forced to shoot a mentally ill man to protect himself from being attacked.  However, after a video surfaced that appears to prove the officer is lying, that cop is out of a job--and could be staring down the barrel of felony assault charges.

Ofc. Cardan Spencer, the six-year veteran who shot a mentally ill man who was standing still with his arms at his sides, was fired on Thursday.

Police Chief David Brown has also recommended he be charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but a state district judge refused to sign an arrest warrant for the officer, and said the case needs to be taken to a grand jury for referral.
[snip]
The results of an internal investigation found that Spencer violated the department’s deadly force policy and the standard operating procedure regarding mentally ill persons. Spencer was told of his punishment during a disciplinary hearing Thursday morning.

"Officers are not above the law," Brown said during a news conference. "We as a police department are not going to look the other way. We are not going to sweep officer misconduct under the rug. Officer actions must be reasonable and necessary."

Back on October 14, police got a call that Bobby Gerald Bennett was walking around his south Dallas neighborhood with a knife.  Spencer and his partner, Christopher Watson, later said Spencer was forced to shoot Bennett when Bennett lunged at them with the knife.  But this video from a neighbor's surveillance camera proves otherwise.

As you can see, Bennett never made a move toward the officers.  He'd initially been charged with assault on an officer.  When Brown found out about the video, however, those charges were dropped.  Bennett is still in the hospital, but should be okay.  Reportedly, he hadn't been taking medication for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder before he was shot.

Spencer had been on indefinite leave since the video came to light.  After finding out that two passersby corroborated what was seen in the video, Brown really had no choice but to fire Spencer.  Given the circumstances, I have to wonder why the judge didn't sign the warrant right away.  

The other officer in the incident, Watson, is in hot water for statements he made in the incident.  He initially claimed Bennett took two steps toward him and Spencer with the knife.  But after seeing the video, Watson claimed he remembered things out of order.  He said that Spencer shot Bennett first, then recalled seeing Bennett raise the knife as he went down.  He claimed his initial statement was due to--wait for it--"acute stress."  Brown didn't sound like he bought either claim.

Hopefully the grand jury will come to the same conclusion that Brown did--that this shooting was unnecessary and unlawful.

Originally posted to Christian Dem in NC on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 03:48 PM PDT.

Also republished by Mental Health Awareness and Police Accountability Group.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cop was just Staining His Ground. (6+ / 0-)

    Speaking of failed rollouts, how's Iraq doing these days?

    by here4tehbeer on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 04:20:28 PM PDT

  •  Republished to Mental Health Awareness nt (10+ / 0-)

    I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

    by second gen on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 04:37:16 PM PDT

  •  Look at the beginning of the tape (9+ / 0-)

    The mentally ill man was seated!

    He was wheeling himself around backward in some kind of wheeled desk chair. He stood up while the police were still very far away. They may have even told him to stand up.

    "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

    by LilithGardener on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 04:40:10 PM PDT

    •  This incident has caused all sorts of outrage in (11+ / 0-)

      Dallas. There have been a number of shootings called into question, however, in most cases there have not been witnesses or cameras.

      The police chief, David Brown, is a good man and has taken a hard line against police misconduct. He's a black police chief with a majority white force and situations have been occasionally rocky.

      The District Attorney, Craig Watson, is famous for having (I believe this is still true) freed the most innocent men from prison from post-conviction DNA testing in history in the USA.

      The authorities are moving slowly and deliberately to insure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed.

      I am cautiously optimistic about this being handled correctly. I've made my complaints to the mayor and city councilmember.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 07:19:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped and rec'd. Mind if I republish to (15+ / 0-)

    police accountability group? I'm very glad to see a case of moderate accountability, even if it took an irrefutable video and two eyewitnesses to get it.

    "On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps...of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again."

    by middleagedhousewife on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 04:41:01 PM PDT

  •  Its very stressful... (14+ / 0-)

    To try and think on your feet when coming up with a good enough lie to cover up a crime.

    So yeah, "acute stress". Fire him also and give him $38k for all of that stress... O.o

    The roaches always win if you turn out the lights.

    by Jyotai on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 04:52:11 PM PDT

  •  Generally, I'm very concerned (8+ / 0-)

    With the proliferation of surveillance-- as has been documented in diaries on this website countless times, limitless surveillance + increasingly militarized police force + erosion of 4th amendment can potentially = very bad things.

    However, this is one of the few benefits to widespread urban surveillance-- documenting idiot police brutality and providing ironclad proof against their idiot, circle-the-wagons, B.S. "incident reports." He had a knife! He lunged! We took necessary and proper action!

    Bullshit.

    Very few things make me angrier than blatant abuse of (ever-increasing) police power. Thank the flying spaghetti monster that there was footage to prove it in this case. Thanks for documenting this, and I hope this guy gets 30 years.

    "How much wisdom is lost in knowledge? And how much knowledge is lost in information" -Juhani Pallasmaa

    by B o o on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 04:54:48 PM PDT

    •  Agreed. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DSPS owl, Calamity Jean

      It's a fact of life that there are a lot more cameras than just a few years ago -- whether govt or business surveillance cameras, or just people on the street with their personal phone/camera/whatevers.

      While disturbing from a privacy standpoint, it does sometimes mean there's better evidence to use against the bad guys (and to clear the innocent accused).  

      That's good news for the good cops, bad news for the bad ones.

    •  Everything the police do should be on (9+ / 0-)

      tamper-proof video.  Always.  It would be one of the best investments the nation ever made.  Dash-cam and uniform-cam, both.  It's time we did this.

      Once the police know that their every action is reviewable, accountability can begin to be asserted.

      (well, it is a dream anyway)

      Good cops should welcome the action. There are plenty of cases of lying, scheming crooks too. The video would be good evidence.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 07:22:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The state district judge (15+ / 0-)

    that refused to sign an arrest warrant is typical.

    Gawd forbid they don't support the police in everything they do.

    The judge knows full well that he would be villified signing that arrest warrant. The police union and all the other people of our society that put police on a God like footing don't give a rats ass what the evidence shows.

    The "thin blue line" is quite evident as well. Christopher Watson, the partner in this crime should be fired too.
    His statement of remembering things "out of order" is an insult. This is where this shit must end. Watson is a fucking liar and corruptable. Fire his sorry ass and every cop that pulls this shit, and then the thin blue line will magically disappear.

    "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis Brandeis

    by wxorknot on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 04:54:57 PM PDT

  •  These stories terrify me, they shake me to my core (17+ / 0-)

    Any parent of a child with special needs lives in daily fear of this kind of incident.

    I'm so glad that cop lost his job.  "Acute stress", my ass.

    That poor man he shot probably lived with actual acute stress every day of his life.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 05:21:54 PM PDT

  •  Were there diaries on 13-year old Andy Lopez? (11+ / 0-)

    today? I was deeply upset by this this morning -- he is a 13-year old boy who was murdered in cold blood by police while unarmed, making international news -- and on October 22nd, no less. But I've been gone from the house and offline since very, very early this morning and wonder if I missed a diary on that topic?

    This diary seems like the right place to ask since eyewitness accounts for Andy's death contradict the police statements made to date. It seems like there were a lot of witnesses because it was 3pm in a fairly busy area.

    Tipped & Rec'd.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

    Marches and vigils started immediately, and there is organization ongoing about what the next step is: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/...

    Updated info on Justice for Andy Lopez: https://www.facebook.com/...

    I wish I had time to diary. I really, really do. I encourage anyone who cares about this story to please diary on Andy's death since I have only a few minutes online and then will check in briefly later. But it deserves substantial coverage if there hasn't already been a diary on this. Also, for those who live in the Bay Area, please come out to support this.

    Thanks Christian Dem in NC. These stories are all interconnected.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 06:16:57 PM PDT

  •  a cute stress.which man was mentally/ill? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl

    Don Benedetto was murdered.-IgnazioSilone(BreadAndWine)

    by renzo capetti on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 06:22:22 PM PDT

  •  Cops Killing More Americans Than Al Qaeda nt (3+ / 0-)

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 07:50:58 PM PDT

  •  It looks like it was third shift (0+ / 0-)

    the newbies run this shift,

    you see a lot of amateurism at that time of day

  •  Capital Punishment: Dallas + a tale of two cities. (0+ / 0-)

    To begin, let me state that it is important to consider the structure of such interventions, and ask a basic question: do those with mental illnesses have the right to be protected from police?  

    Next, lets consider the response that police officers use, and the trust society places in their holsters, as they are sworn to uphold the law and protect citizens.  

    Then, lets consider the events surrounding this case within the context of capital punishment.

    As a society, we consider the murder of an officer in the line of duty to be a grotesque and reprehensible act; as that criminal is not only attacking a civil servant, but the very fabric of our nation.  Yet, in this instance, the police officers sworn affidavit indicates that the man had raised the knife and began charging the two police officers when one of them fired four shots at the man, striking him once.  As a culture, we must ask ourselves how we view police officers who, for whatever reason, attempt to lie about the circumstances surrounding a police officer involved shooting.  We let them carry weapons because we believe they have our best interest in mind.  In this instance, it is clear that something went terribly wrong; and one thing I will clearly admit is that in such incidents, it's important to recognize the stress and pressure under which officers operate.  

    It is a peculiar truth that in police involved homicides, society often responds passively to such incidents of murder; if a police officer were killed, the full furry and weight of the justice system would be brought down upon the criminal; however in this instance, not only does a police officer shoot a man, but his partner lies in a sworn affidavit to try and insulate his partner from the legal repercussions that would result from a "bad shooting", and the judge fails to even bring an aggravated assault charge.  What about attempted murder, and if the man had died, what about capital murder?   Now that we know that his officer lied, now that we can clearly see that not only was a sick man gunned down, but that one of the involved officers attempted to lie, to use his position of power to place the blame on the victim, how should think about this?  

    Does capital murder work both ways?  Should there be some extra-ordinary punishment levied against the officers for their actions?  Or will we see this as another justified shooting?

    What rights do people have to expect that those officers be held accountable for the consequences of their bullets and words, when the badges they wear now carry the stigma and shame of their actions, as their lies rip at the very fabric of society: the trust existing between those with guns and those they are sworn to protect?

    So what should we do?  And how should we see this?  When it's clear that the officers involved committed an unjustified shooting, then lied about what happened, does capital punishment go both ways?

    Intelligent, compassionate cities have created crisis teams, consisting of trained mental health professionals, to respond to situations like these because they recognize the potential for chaotic, brash reactions in such mental health interventions.  Remember, that mother called because she needed help and the men who responded not only shot her son, but attempted to blame him: the victim.  Wouldn't it make sense to have a trained professional in between the sick man with a gun and the victim of his rage?  

    This issue strikes close to home because 10 months ago I was illegally detained at gunpoint and with the threat of the use of deadly force, then interrogated for over an hour and a half by police officers on my campus in upstate NY.  In a national security law class at a different school, I asked if it made sense to stigmatize and pre-emptively revoke the constitutional rights of 160 million Americans based on media conjecture: 60 millions with the major 4 disabilities and whoever happens to live with them, as the new law "limits access to guns" for people with disabilities, their family members can't own guns either.  

    From the very beginning, I've said that I understand that campuses have the responsibility to ensure the safety on campus.  I also said that there were better ways that we could structure these interventions, so as to protect the lives of those involved, but also the school from financial liability, as what happened to me was a crime on various levels.  

    When the affirmative action director at my school failed to do his job: which was to contact the other school in question to determine the reasons for their teachers and officers actions, I contacted the other school.  All I attempted to do was tell the female doctor on the other side of the phone what happened to me, and why I saw it as a problem.  She told me she would look into it, and called me back within 20 minutes.  She then said "Do you want to get into *** University...", to which I replied "No, I'm happy doing research at ** ***", which is when she said "Well if you do want to get into **** University, then you'll stop pursuing this."

    It took me a few hours to realize I'd just been threatened.  It took me a few days to call the campus police to report the threat, because it is a federal crime to attempt to stop any student or employee from filing a complaint, but the police chief used this line of reasoning to dissuade me from filing the complaint, "Wait, wait, wait... I want you to tell me that you understand the difference between her (the doctor) saying that she wants to kill you and her saying she wants to take her kickball back."  I kept trying to say that I didn't see the difference, because she wasn't talking about taking a kickball back, rather was threatening to blackball me from that university and presumably any other over which she had sway. But he kept interrupting me, expressing his deep concern for my what.... instability?  insanity?  did I not have a right to say that what I'd been through in the previous 5 months was hell.  

    To begin, there is no empirical data showing that people with mental health disorders commit a grotesquely disproportionate amount of violent acts:

    http://mentalillnesspolicy.org/...

    The national security law class was dealt with the extent to which one citizens rights can be revoked in the name of national security.  When we look, we see that 25% of people 18 and older suffer from one of the major four illnesses in a given year.  We also see that 45 % of Americans suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime:

    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/...

    Yet, for some reason we believe it's acceptable to have a national dialogue wherein the afflicted become the focus of the ignorant hatred waged against tragedy?  And that's the fundamental truth about this: that such instances as Sandyhook, Columbine, and Aurora are tragedies.  No one will argue with that.  In the email that resulted in me being detained, interrogated for an hour and a half, and then threatened into silence, I clearly said that these events are tragedies, but also asked if it made sense to blame the afflicted for tragedies that are beyond anyone's control.  

    Which is the other fact of the matter: that the consequences of the NY SAFE ACT are a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The new law forces mental health professionals to communicate with the government in ways that are as pervasive as they are misunderstood.  So, when the afflicted realize that their doctors and therapists: the people whom they trust with their most intimate fears and thoughts, must communicate with "the man" about the things they say within the context of the doctor-patient privilege; then you can assume that some measurable portion of those people will leave the mental health system, which we'll call 2 million for the state of NY.  So lets say that 10% of those 2 million leave the mental health system, that's 200,000 people who stop taking their medicine and/or going to therapy.  Then, lets say that 1% of those people (2000 patients who had previously been in the mental health infrastructure) commit a violent act as a result of stopping their meds and therapy.  In this instance, we could see how .1% of people with mental health illnesses would commit a violent act as a result of non-empirically based policy.  The very laws put in place to protect society would be primarily responsible for pushing it's most vulnerable citizens into the cold, then not only focusing on them as to origins of tragedy, but viciously and violently prosecuting them as such.  The evidence from the 1988 DOJ and the attached studies specifically notes that the vast majority of the violent criminals living in the Illinois prison system were not in therapy at the time crime that resulted in their incarceration.  

    So how should we feel about a police officer lying in order to place blame on the victim?  Maybe people don't want to see the peculiarity of protecting police officers with the threat of capital punishment as a response to killing them; in truth it's more a point of interest that should be explored than a definite belief that I hold; but it is peculiar, in the most historically accurate sense of the word, that they should not only receive that level of protection and be afforded the blessing of simply being charged with aggravated assault by the district attorney, but also that a judge would refuse to hear a case on that level: the same level as the crime that the police attempted to charge the victim with.  It's peculiar that had this video not surfaced the victim would more than likely still be prosecuted for aggravated assault against the officers, which is the same crime that the officers who shot him are not now currently facing because of their actions.  

    Forget a sick populous, the empirical evidence already shows the opposite; it's a sick system which would attempt to lay the blame at the feet of the afflicted, and then exonerate the officers as if they competently addressed the menace that is the afflicted.  If we as a society have decided that cops should protected with the promise of capital punishment because we recognize that those criminals who kill them are attempting to destroy more than a man, and are attacking the very fabric of the laws that holds our country together; then how should we see two officers who not only gun down a sick man in cold blood, but then lie about the nature of the engagement so as to avoid the punishment which they knew was commensurate with the crime they committed?  When their actions put protestors in the streets who scream for freedom and call into question the entire justice system which protects murders, sorry.... attempted murders.... sorry.... aggravated assaulters... sorry... not even that... whatever we see the cops as, when their illegal, despicable, sick, sadistic, unwarranted actions draw a line in the sand, on which side should justice stand as the country erupts in the flames of indignation?

    And so after filing an informal discrimination and sexual harassment complaint at my school (because how and why those officers who detained me needed to repeatedly ask if the reason my ex-fiancee left was because I beat her, even after I admitted that I'd never hit anyone in my life, I'll never understand), both of which were rejected, why should I have to go on trial within the formal complaint process to have my issues honestly addressed?  All I said was that we can do this better, then I was threatened into silence.  And both schools want to wash their hands of the mess, claiming that it's the others fault.  But why should I have to pin the stigma of disease against my chest to get the school to address it's illegal, immoral, and impractical actions.   I go to one of the states three agricultural schools, wherein half of each student body comes from farms; to assert that there aren't hundreds of kids on each campus asking the same question would require "the willful suspension of disbelief".  What happened to a socratic method? What happened to empiricism?  When did we become so blood thirsty?  And why are we focusing on the victims instead of the perpetrators?  Because it's easier to hate those you don't understand, and scary to challenge the ones with guns.

    So for now, I'll remain incognito, in the shadows because at some point I want to go to law school, or grad school, or enlist. If I were to go public with this, beyond the in school's complaint process, like me with my disabilities (one of which has since been reversed), those officers would forever be stigmatized with the complaint of discrimination and sexual harassment (whether founded or not), when all I ever wanted was for there to be a policy that respected everyone involved: that told me why I was being called in, that allowed me to have a psychologist, dorm parents, advisor, or etc in the room to challenge the officers when they repeated (after restraining me by the threat of deadly force) badgered me about why my ex left.  

    So for now I'll live in the shadows of a slave-police state.  Don't kid yourselves.  This is the most disgusting type of racism because when someone stands up to challenge the status-quo, they are met by men with guns who call them crazy.  Their argument is refuted based not on it's merits, but on it's origins.  It happened to me.  All I tried to do, by calling the other university, was file a complaint and have that police chief help me find the name of the female doctor who had threatened me because that would be pertinent to the investigation; but as someone who has lived through what I've lived through, after I survived the intervention and threat of the use of deadly force, when another man with gun and a badge said, "Stop M*k, stop, stop! I'm very concerned that you can't tell the difference between her saying she wants to kill you and she wants to take her kickball home", I knew what he was doing.  So like those with a star on the sleeve or who wore "the mask that grinned and lied", I'll keep quiet because I have to.  Because I'm a target of a police state out of control and a population sick with bereavement.  Until we see that the tragedy is to close ranks and pretend like we don't have a mother with post-partum, or a father or sister who served in Iraq or the police force and now has PTSD because of their sacrifice, or a brother or uncle with something that the family doesn't talk about around holidays when we all get together and attempt to rationalize why some men make it, while others just seem...... lost... Until we stand united behind the cause of equality, we'll never be free.  Try explaining why your brother took his own life to your nieces and nephews, or sons and daughters.  Try rationalizing that the contents of his medical record and not his character deserved to relegate him to a sub-class of crazy.  Einstein once said that if you can't explain something to an 8 year old, you don't know what you're talking about.

    I've presented evidence from the DOJ to corroborate my views; then discussed how the implementation of partisan policy might actually create a self-fulfilling prophecy, within which I'd rather not be another statistic because of ignorance.  But forget the data, no one will pay attention to it anyways.... Since when did we accept that racism is ok, regardless of the color of ones skin, or the language they speak, or nation of origin.  What are civil rights if not the recognition that we're all in this ship, sink or survive, together? At one point we thought every Japanese or German was a spy... At one point blacks of African or American descent couldn't vote... At one point they were slaves!  And we justified that by othering them, by trying to say they aren't like us, by trying differentiate between those who are or aren't Americans, between those Americans who do and don't deserve protection or rights, then to what extent.  

    The way I see it, we're lost at sea, stuck in a lifeboat.  We either stick together or devolve into the type of people who start throwing the "other" overboard because they're different.  The way I remember it, Martin Neimoller said,

    "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."

    Looking back on the past year of my life, within the light of this video and the grotesque debate to follow, I pray that we may remember his words.  Si vis pacem, para bellum.  I pray for peace! God knows I've prayed for a peace composed of compassion, empiricism, and the unified belief that we all deserve a chance to live a life without fear or threat of retaliation.  In this instance, I know we can, and will do better.  I know it because I believe it; believe it because I have to; I have to because I have no other option.  This man didn't deserve what happened to him... Lets all remember that because of a neuro-chemical imbalance he over reacted when, because of the rain, he couldn't go see his grandmother, for whom he'd just drawn a picture.  And if peace is too much to ask for, in light of this incident, take a minute and pray that it won't rain.  For those of us for whom it always seems to be cloudy, take a minute to think about the afflicted within the confines of this democracy and whether we deserve a place at the table come christmas, even if the kids ask why we're always so sad.

    It's time for sleep... Peace....

    Respectfully belligerent,

    A citizen of district 18

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