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Family of Beaten Teen, Community Leaders Reject Police Investigation Results

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By James Patterson, Special to the NNPA from the Indianapolis Recorder –

INDIANAPOLIS (NNPA) - The completion of one facet of the investigation into the police beating of an Indianapolis teenager has apparently not put the issue to rest – only raised more questions.

A police internal investigation connected to the May 16 beating of 15-year-old Brandon Johnson resulted in the firing of one of the five officers involved, and a letter of reprimand given to the another. Police said the other three officers that took part in the altercation followed police department guidelines and would not be disciplined.

Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Paul Ciesielski announced the results at a 10:30 a.m. press conference at the City-County Building in Indianapolis on Thursday, June 10. Ciesielski recommended that Officer Jerry Piland, a 3½-year veteran of the force, be fired over his aggressive tactics during the arrest of Brandon and his 14-year-old brother, Vincent Johnson. Police said Piland struck Brandon in the face with an open hand and may have kicked him in the face as well after the teen was under control. Piland was suspended without pay pending a hearing before the Indianapolis Police Merit Board.

MPD Officer Stacy Lettinga received a written reprimand for what her superiors said was using poor judgment in initiating the arrest. Officers David Carney, Jake Clouthier and Sgt. Josh Shaughnessy were cleared of any wrongdoing by the investigation. Lettinga, Carney, Clouthier and Shaughnessy had been placed on administrative duty with pay during the investigation. Piland, who was off duty and in street clothes when he took part in the arrest of Brandon, was reassigned to desk duty.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard released the following statement: “The internal investigation spearheaded by Director Straub and Chief Ciesielski balanced the real and legitimate concerns of the Indianapolis community with the need to be fair to the officers involved and thorough in its examination of the facts. Public safety can only be job one if the police act within the letter of the law, the guidelines of their training, and our fellow citizens and public safety officers treat each other with mutual respect. This incident is an indictment of neither the courage and bravery of our police force, nor the spirit of our neighborhoods. I support the conclusions of the internal investigation and the disciplinary recommendations.”

However, the results of the IMPD internal probe were not acceptable to the Johnson family, their attorney, and several prominent Indianapolis Black ministers and community leaders, who held a press conference at the family’s home in Warren Township about three hours after the police released their findings.

The family, who stood with their attorney and a group of prominent Indianapolis ministers and community leaders, including Bishop T. Garrott Benjamin Jr., made the following demands: “The remaining four officers involved be fired; a federal monitor of police brutality cases in Indianapolis; an external federal investigation of the case from outside the city; an immediate review of police staffing policies to weed out nepotism, racism, sexism, and the culture of violence and croynism; and that police intimidation be halted,” among other demands.

While the family’s Indianapolis lawyer, Stephen M. Wagner, acknowledged the gesture of the apology given by Public Safety Director Straub, the results of the investigation “are disappointing, to say the least,” he said. The investigation did confirm many of the crucial facts as the family believed them to be, Wagner said. The attorney said Brandon came outside and inquired as to why Vincent was in handcuffs. When Brandon was asked to remain across the street from where his brother was being detained, Brandon complied. He was then asked to get an adult before the officer would speak with him. He went into his home and got his 18-year-old brother, Wagner said.v When Brandon was asked to stay at a distance across the street, explained Wagner, Brandon ask the officers, “Why is my brother in handcuffs? At that point, Officer Carney approached him, rudely, and said, ‘You are going, too.’ With no physical provocation whatsoever, Officer Carney clocked him and knocked him to the ground.

When he was on the ground, and this is in the words of the chief himself, Officer Carney grabbed Brandon’s hair and then administered strikes to him. According to the chief, Carney then continued to strike him as other officers joined. Let me give you a little translation. An open-hand strike is police talk for a punch. From that point forward, additional officers joined in. Officer Clothier; Officer Piland, who was off-duty but who decided to join the fray when he arrived. Then the three of those officers continued to punch or kick or knee-strike Brandon. Based on this investigation, only Piland, who curiously was not placed on administrative leave during this incident, faces disciplinary action.

“What about Carney, who started it all?” asked Wagner. “Who knocked my client down without any physical provocation whatsoever? What about Clothier, who wrote a fanciful report afterwards in an attempt to cover the actions of the officers? We all know of Clothier’s history on the department. And what about Shaughnessy, the supervisor on the scene, who should have stopped the beating; maybe the only person on the scene they would have listened to?

“The police chief said that Clothier, Carney and Shaughnessy followed procedure. If this is proper police procedure in Indianapolis, then we need some new procedures in Indianapolis,” Wagner said. The family is awaiting the results of the Department of Justice investigation, “and are hopeful that criminal charges will be brought against all officers who had a part in this assault,” he said. “Until that time, we are left with partial justice and what we seek is full justice.”

Brandon’s mother, Chantay Chandler, said the internal police investigation was a complete slap in the face to her son. “I am grateful that at least one bad cop is off of the street but, however, it was a lot of wrongdoing here today and there are a lot of officers that need to be removed as well,” said Chandler.

Joining the family at the press conference were several prominent ministers, including Bishop T. Garrott Benjamin, Pastor M.E. Drane and Rev. Mmoja Ajabu of Light of the World Christian Church, Rev. Richard Willoughby, president of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Pastor Lionel T. Rush of Greater Anointing Fellowship, and City-County Councilor and mayoral candidate Jose Evans.

 

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