A grand jury on Tuesday declined to bring charges against an Indianapolis police officer who shot and killed 21-year-old Dreasjon “Sean” Reed in May after a high-speech chase, officials said.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer, Dejoure Mercer, killed Reed on May 6 while running after him on foot after a car chase over the 21-year-old’s allegedly reckless driving. The decision not to charge him comes nearly three months after a special prosecutor convened a grand jury to review the investigation into Reed’s case, which spurred hundreds of residents to protest outside police headquarters.
During a Tuesday press conference announcing the charges, Special Prosecutor Rosemary Khoury broke down in tears as she described the 21-year-old’s case, stating that the grand jury did not find sufficient “evidence to indict or accuse” Mercer.
“This has not been an easy task,” Khoury said, choking up as she described the investigation. “No one wins here so I hope that anyone who was a part of this entire process can look at this and feel comfortable that the investigation was done in an impartial manner. Because that is what my team and I did.”
Breaking down in tears once again, Khoury added: “I don’t know how Mr. Reed’s mother feels but I am the mother of two black boys.” She then expressed empathy for Mercer, who is also Black, stating she knows the May incident “had to be a difficult position to be in.”
Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter on Tuesday stressed the decision on whether to charge Mercer has “not been taken lightly.” “Please, please understand our role is in the objective finder of fact. We didn’t pick a side and we will never pick a side.”
The shooting took place just weeks before George Floyd died while in police custody, galvanizing nationwide protests against police brutality. In anticipation of possible unrest in Indianapolis over the grand jury’s decision, several businesses in the state’s capital have boarded up their window fronts and removed outside furniture. According to Fox 59, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has also canceled days off and put officers on 12-hour shifts to handle any unrest.
In a separate press conference on Tuesday, Carter and Indiana State Police Detective David Herron walked through their investigation into Reed’s death, explaining how officers used witness testimony and video footage from nearby storefronts to piece together what happened. Carter added that authorities do not know what the grand jury heard, stating that their investigation was separate.
“Please remember the human side of what you’re about to see,” Carter said.
Authorities said the incident began around 6 p.m. on May 6, when officers began pursuing Reed, who they said was driving recklessly. After he got out of the car, Mercer chased him on foot before gunfire was “exchanged” at around 6:14 p.m. Police have not said who fired first.
Part of the pursuit and the fatal shooting were captured on Reed’s Facebook Live—and at least 13 or 14 gunshots can be heard in the footage. The Facebook video begins with Reed filming himself in the middle of the car chase with police, and he appears to pull over and stop his car. Authorities say Reed disregarded “the officers’ verbal commands to stop” and ran out of the car, prompting an officer to chase him on foot.
“I’m on 62nd and Michigan,” Reed says in the video, just before exiting the car. “I just parked... I’m gone.”
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said during a May news conference that Mercer first used his taser, but it’s unclear if it worked. Herron said Tuesday the taser, which cannot be seen on the video, did not work to stop Reed because it did not create a circuit.
“It is believed at this time that shots were fired by both the officer and the suspect,” Bailey said.
In the Facebook Live, Reed starts screaming before collapsing on the ground. About eight seconds later, 11 or 12 gunshots can be heard in rapid succession. The live stream does not show Reed talking about a gun or firing a weapon. Herron said Tuesday that 15 rounds in total were fired—and that the 21-year-old had fired two of those shots.
“We can conclude that Mr. Reed fired two shots at the scene,” Herron said, adding that the 13 other casings match Mercer’s gun.
By the end of the gunfire, more than 4,000 people had tuned in to watch the live stream. Bailey said Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services arrived shortly after and pronounced the driver dead at the scene. The officer was uninjured.
In another video obtained by The Indianapolis Star, a detective who arrived after the shooting can be heard saying: “Looks like it’s going to be a closed casket, homie.” The detective, who was later identified as IMPD Officer Steven Scott, a 15-year veteran, was suspended by the department and reassigned.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Randal Taylor said in May that a “loaded gun” was recovered at the scene.
On Tuesday, Herron said investigators concluded video evidence shows Reed carrying a gun in his waistband that was later found beside him. The DNA on two phones found at the scene matched DNA found on the gun, which Reed stole from a pawn shop in Texas, police said. Herron added that Reed and his gun have since been linked to two previous drive-by shootings.
The detective added that officers moved the gun out of his reach because emergency medical personnel won’t respond to the scene where a suspect is armed. An attorney for Reed’s family has previously acknowledged that while Reed may have had a firearm at the time of the shooting, it was obtained legally.
In June, Reed’s family filed a lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis and IMPD claiming the officers used excessive force that resulted in the 21-year-old’s “wrongful death.” The lawsuit maintains that Reed did not fire at the IMPD officers, and police shot at him immediately after deploying the Taser.
“It’s not right. We’re going to fight for him. I swear to god it is just not right,” Jamie Reed, his father, said at a press conference after his son’s death. “We need to fight for this. We don’t need to let this fade. We need to all fight.”
On Tuesday, Khoury insisted that by convening a grand jury for the investigation, “justice was done.”
“Because I trust our system, our judicial system,” the special prosecutor said.