INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the IMPD officers cleared of wrongdoing this month in the fatal shooting of Aaron Bailey is facing a federal civil lawsuit in a second shooting, Call 6 Investigates has learned.
The Indianapolis Civilian Police Merit Board voted 5-2 two weeks ago to reinstate Officers Carlton Howard and Michael Dinnsen. IMPD Chief Bryan Roach had recommended the men’s termination from the force after a special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against them.
Both officers fired at Bailey, who was unarmed, after he fled from a traffic stop on June 29, 2017. Bailey was struck multiple times and died at the scene.
The Bailey family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Howard, Dinnsen, IMPD and the city of Indianapolis.
Documents obtained Thursday by Call 6 Investigates show Howard is also the subject of a federal civil suit in connection to another shooting on Oct. 26, 2015.
That case also began as a traffic stop – this time near the Speedway gas station at the intersection of 30th Street and Guion Road.
At the time, the officers involved reported seeing the vehicle’s passenger, 21-year-old Deonta Ellis, was armed with a gun. One of the officers fired a single shot at Ellis – striking him in the back.
Police found a loaded handgun in Ellis’ sweatpants and a second loaded handgun in on the front passenger side floorboard.
Ellis survived the shooting. Court records show he filed a notice of tort claim in the incident in April 2016. A petition to move the case to federal court was filed in October 2017. The case names Howard, another officer, Daniel Slightom, and the city of Indianapolis as defendants.
In the lawsuit, Ellis claims that Howard and Slightom – who testified at Howard and Dinnsen’s merit board hearing – ordered him and the vehicle’s driver, Lavon Washington, to show their hands and exit the car.
Ellis says he was complying with that order when one of the officers yelled, “He’s going for it!” and the other shot him in the back.
Ellis also claims neither Slightom nor Howard had any probable cause to believe that he had committed or was committing a crime at the time.
The lawsuit argues Slightom and Howard violated Ellis’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. It also argues that Ellis, who is black, was shot in part because of his race.
Slightom and Howard denied those accusations in a response to Ellis’ motion filed in November.
Neither Howard nor Slightom had ever been publicly identified by the department as the officers involved in Elllis' shooting prior to questions submitted by RTV6 this week.
The lawsuit does not specify which officer Ellis believes fired the shot, however, in a statement to RTV6, IMPD identified the shooting officer as Slightom -- and also addressed questions about why Howard's involvement in the shooting did not come up during his merit board hearing:
"Officer Howard did not discharge his weapon during this 2015 officer-involved shooting. He was a witness. The suspect, in this case, was apprehended with two handguns, one on his person and another which was located on the driver's floorboard of the vehicle he was in.
"This incident and Officer Howard's involvement as a witness was not relevant to the most recent merit board hearing."
Neither Howard nor Slightom were asked about the Ellis shooting during their merit board testimony. When city attorneys asked Slightom to describe his relationship with Howard and Dinnsen, he said he worked with them "pretty regularly," and described both as "great... never had any problems with them." He did not mention the October 2015 shooting, or that Howard had been involved as well.
The case is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The next appearance in the case was scheduled for a status conference via telephone on June 15 to talk about the parties’ readiness for an upcoming settlement conference.
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