Sharpton Focuses On Brutality Claim In Indianapolis Visit

Activist Calls Brandon Johnson Case Disturbing

The Rev. Al Sharpton visited Indianapolis churches Sunday for a prayer service and talk on the case of a 15-year-old biracial boy who was injured during an arrest.

In an appearance Sunday evening at the 2,500-seat Eastern Star Church, Sharpton sharply criticized Indianapolis' handling of the case, 6News' Rick Hightower reported.

Sharpton's visit to Indianapolis comes as growing discontent filters through the African-American community in the wake of a May 16 disorderly conduct arrest that left Brandon Johnson with facial cuts, a broken nose, bruises and a chipped tooth.

"I come at their invitation to really look into this matter," Sharpton said. "The National Action Network and I are dealing with police cases all over the country."

Police said that Johnson resisted arrest after trying to interfere with the arrest of his younger brother, but Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi declined to file charges against Johnson.

"Tell me how beating someone in their face is stopping someone from resisting arrest?" Sharpton said to the large congregation.

Members of the black community sought the firing of five police officers connected to the arrest.

Indianapolis Metro Police Chief Paul Ciesielski recommended last month that Officer Jerry Piland be fired.

An internal police investigation cleared three officers and recommended a reprimand for another. It concluded that Johnson resisted arrest, but that Piland unnecessarily struck Johnson as other officers handcuffed him.

Brandon Johnson

"It is disturbing to me that when I look at the photos of this young man and when I see the stories that have been given on all sides, I do not understand how any police can justify the kind of beating that this young man was subjected to," Sharpton said.

The Baptist Minister's Alliance and Johnson's family protested the department's decision to return three officers involved in the incident to active duty.

"It seems as though these incidents keep happening with a racial imbalance," Sharpton said. "It happens in communities of color more often than not."

Sharpton said he hadn't spoken with Johnson but had talked with his mother.

Those who were in attendance said they hope Sharpton's appearance will lead to action.

"Rev. Sharpton has that great leadership ability to ... motivate us and move us in the right direction," said Michael Barnes.

"Of course, whenever he comes to town, he stirs people up, but I'm hoping this will make a change in the community with our youth," said Cynthoria Williams.

The group that arranged for Sharpton's appearance said city leaders haven't been willing to meet with the activist.

"Whether you agree with them or not, to set a tone of unity, you need to do what I did and come and meet and talk to the faith leaders of the city you are the mayor of," Sharpton said.

6News attempted to reach Mayor Greg Ballard's office to see if they wanted to respond to Sharpton's comments, but received no response as of late Sunday.

Sharpton also had a message for the youth.

"If we're going to fight for you and ... stand up for you, we're not standing up for you to have the right to be a hoodlum and the right to be a thug," he said.

A civilian merit board will review Piland's firing.