Disgraced Indianapolis Metro Police Department officer Robert Lawson was charged with a series of three felonies and two misdemeanors including perjury, battery, official misconduct, and other crimes after a two-week investigation proved that the officer lied about assaulting a Black 17-year-old high school student.
According to the Indy Star, the unprovoked attack against the boy was captured on video. The assault occurred on Aug. 29 after police were called to Shortridge High School in Indianapolis to break up a melee involving numerous students.
Upon Officer Lawson’s arrival at Shortridge High School, school resource officers had one student in custody as well as the aunt of the young man who was attacked by 43-year old Lawson. The aunt took the video, which also showed the officer threatening to arrest the distraught woman. The boy stepped between the officer and his aunt, which resulted in Lawson sucker-punching the teen, knocking him to the ground. The video indicates the attack was unprovoked.
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Although Lawson attacked the teen, the incident report and arrest record told a completely different story. The report claimed that the young man “attempted to assault the officer,” and Lawson used an open palm block to stop the attack. To cover his tracks, Lawson demanded that the aunt stop recording. When that did not work, he tried to confiscate her phone.
The Shortridge High School student was arrested on the scene and faced charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. However, after the video went viral on social media- the Indianapolis Metro Police Department (IMPD) had no choice but to release the young man. The department also placed Lawson on administrative leave while assuring the public that a thorough investigation would be done.
Officer Lawson even tried to get fellow officers to corroborate his bogus story even though the video indicated otherwise. He claimed the boy “clenched his fist in anger” and that he immediately handcuffed him. The video shows the officer kneeing the boy in the chest. He implicated Sgt. Marzetta Jenkins as a witness to his account of the ordeal. When she was questioned, Jenkins denied ever making that statement.
The prosecutor for Marion County, Terry Curry, determined Lawson hit the student “without a legitimate concern for self-defense.”
“This is no way excuses what the officer is accused of doing, obviously,” Curry said during a press conference.
The superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, Aleesia Johnson, released a statement regarding Lawson’s attack on the student.
“As a Black woman and a mother of Black children, it is not possible to watch the video of the incident that occurred at Shortridge without immediately thinking about the other incidents in our country that occur between white police officers and Black people, especially males.”
The concern is had there not been video evidence of the incident; this student’s life could have been destroyed.
Indianapolis is the 13th largest city in the United States. The population is roughly 62 percent white, 28 percent Black, and the rest is a mix of Native American, Asian and other people. Although Blacks make up almost 30% of the population in the city, only 16 percent of the police force is Black according to the Indy Star. The IMPD has ongoing bias training for officers in the department.
The young man’s parents filed a lawsuit against the department.