Family and friends of a mentally ill Rylie man want answers after a Dallas police officer shot him for no apparent reason Monday in broad daylight outside his home.Normally, when officers claim a suspect approached them with a “knife raised in an aggressive manner,” that's the end of the story. Their word will be taken over any and all other witnesses. In this case, luckily, a neighbor's surveillance camera captured the episode. There was another officer on the scene. It'll be interesting down the line to see if his written report jibed with the video or the shooter's version. My guess would be the latter, assuming it was written before police knew the video existed. Body cams would protect officers from false accusations and simultaneously provide documentation when their training and judgment fail them, as clearly happened here. Video serves as a general prophylactic for testilying and an antidote to post hoc confusion about what happened in the heat of the moment.
A police report says that Officer Cardan Spencer fired on Bobby Gerald Bennett, 52, after Bennett walked toward him and his partner with a “knife raised in an aggressive manner.”
But a neighbor’s video surveillance camera recording obtained by WFAA-TV (Channel 8) shows something different: It shows Bennett, who was seated in a chair, initially rolling back from officers as they advance on him. Bennett then stands up but does not move. His hands remain at his side and he is standing still when Spencer shoots him, firing his service weapon four times.
The episode also demonstrates the need for specialized police units to handle calls dealing with the mentally ill. The justice system too often serves as the front-line response to mental health crises, putting police in situations they don't understand and aren't trained to handle. That doesn't excuse what happened here, however I do empathize with officers confronting a mentally ill man with a knife.
Still, given the video, it's strikingly absurd that the arrest warrant affidavit lists Officer Spencer as the "victim." That's certainly not how it looked from a camera's-eye view. Dallas Police Chief David Brown has since ordered that aggravated assault charges be dropped. Go here to see the video (which irritatingly includes unrelated ads before and after the clip).