After a Dallas officer was indicted and later convicted in the slaying of a 12-year-old boy during an interrogation in 1973, four decades went by before a Dallas County grand jury would indict another Dallas officer linked to an on-duty shooting.
Now there have been two in less than a week after a grand jury voted Tuesday to charge former Officer Cardan Spencer in connection with the October shooting of a mentally ill man. On Thursday, a grand jury indicted former Senior Cpl. Amy Wilburn in connection with the Dec. 9 shooting of an unarmed man who was sitting in a stolen vehicle after a car chase.
Spencer and Wilburn were quickly fired after their respective shootings, but the rare grand jury charges have left some officers stunned.
“Instead of handcuffing the criminals, we’re handcuffing the officers, literally and figuratively,” said Dallas Police Association president Ron Pinkston.
Neither shooting — unlike Officer Darrell Cain’s 1973 shooting of Santos Rodriguez — was fatal. Both victims are also seeking damages in civil court.
Spencer will now face a criminal charge stemming from the Oct. 14 shooting of Bobby Bennett outside his mother’s Rylie home.
The story made national news after a neighbor released surveillance video showing that Bennett, who was holding a knife, was standing still with his arms at his side when Spencer opened fire.
Bennett was originally charged with aggravated assault on a public servant, a first-degree felony, based on an account of the incident by Spencer’s partner, who had not seen the video beforehand.
He claimed that Bennett stepped toward the officers with the knife raised aggressively. But after the video went public, Chief David Brown ordered the charge dropped.
Brown fired Spencer days later. He said Spencer had argued that Bennett was clenching the knife in his hand, which couldn’t be seen on the video.
The chief’s quick decision to fire Spencer rankled many officers and Spencer’s attorney, who declined to comment Tuesday. Brown also had detectives seek a warrant for Spencer’s arrest, but a judge declined to sign it. Continue reading here.