Evansville, IN — Three Evansville, Indiana, police officers won’t face any charges for beating a handcuffed man and lying about it in official reports — even though body cam footage proves their blatant lies.
Nick Henderson, Mark DeCamps, and Marcus Craig said they confronted 36-year-old Mark Healy during an investigation of a garage burglary — but Healy, they claimed, resisted to the point a physical confrontation ensued. Healy then tried to flee — and stabbed one of the officers with a syringe of liquid methamphetamine — but the trio managed to restrain the man and place him under arrest.
As Radley Balko reports for the Washington Post, those officers filed that report with Sergeant Kyle Kassel three hours afterward, who reviewed the information and deemed the use of force justified.
And that account stood, according to local media citing the police use-of-force report — until the Evansville Courier & Press obtained body camera footage of the incident disputing nearly every facet of the story. Balko explains:
“In the footage, Healy doesn’t resist at all. And the officer who was stuck by the syringe wasn’t stabbed by Healy, he was pricked by the needle while Healy was handcuffed. Contrary to department procedure, the officer failed to ask Healy if he had anything in his pockets before searching him. As you can see in the video, as one of the officers searches Healy, he pricks himself on the syringe. He then calls Healy a ‘motherf—–’ and strikes him. As Healy lays on the ground, Henderson and another officer then spend about three minutes beating him, yelling at him and threatening to kill him. The third officer just watches.”
Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin reacted appropriately after viewing the footage, accusing the cops of multiple department violations, including official misconduct and excessive force. Bolin immediately suspended the three officers involved and the sergeant who signed off on their report. Further, he recommended Henderson, DeCamps, and Craig be fired and Kassel be demoted.
But the cops beat the handcuffed man on October 29 — and they’re still on paid vacation otherwise known as administrative leave six weeks later.
Indiana State Police investigated the incident and sent Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nicholas Hermann — and last Thursday, Hermann dropped the ball, announcing no charges would be filed against any of the officers.
“During the news conference,” the Courier & Press reports, “Hermann explained at length his reasoning behind the decision — without outright saying he wasn’t pressing charges until several minutes in. He said his office could not prove Henderson purposefully struck Healy in a malicious manner. According to talks with Henderson and his attorney, Hermann said the officer struck the suspect with his elbow after pricking his hand on a needle that was in Healy’s pocket.
“He said there was no evidence Healy was ever punched. Hermann played a statement Healy gave to police immediately after the incident in which he said there were ‘no punches thrown.’”
Whether or not punches, specifically, were thrown, Healy clearly was thrust to the ground after the officer exploded at having stuck his finger on the syringe. In fact, Hermann’s analysis of the body cam footage is disingenuous at best, as it ignores the officers attacked the man while he was in handcuffs, and fails to address that the cop who poked himself on the syringe did not follow proper search procedure.
But it gets worse.
Despite flagrant lies in the use-of-force report, the Courier & Press explains:
“Hermann was also asked about possible perjury charges related to a section of the report that states Henderson, Craig and DeCamps were all working to handcuff Healy while he struggled to get away. That section directly contradicts the video, which shows one officer handcuffing Healy without incident.
“Hermann acknowledged the contradiction but characterized it as a ‘discrepancy’ during the news conference, citing the three hours between the incident and the time the report was filed as a possible cause. He also speculated the officers who wrote and signed the probable cause affidavit under penalty of perjury, Craig and DeCamps, may not have watched the body camera footage before writing the affidavit.
“Because of this, Hermann said it would be difficult to prove the officers intended to give false information.”
Balko cautions the hasty charging of perjury would be remiss as actual discrepancies on police reports aren’t uncommon — eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable — and the trauma of an incident and memory colored by self-interest can worsen that effect. He continues:
“But these aren’t discrepancies. They’re lies. The police claimed Healy resisted. He didn’t. They claimed he broke free and tried to flee. He didn’t. They claimed Henderson was struck by the syringe as Healy attempted to flee. He wasn’t. He was struck while searching Healy, while Healy was stationary and handcuffed.”
Balko points out that, under Indiana law, “A person who makes a false, material statement under oath or affirmation, knowing the statement to be false or not believing it to be true commits perjury.”
Henderson, DeCamps, Craig, and Kassel, all indisputably — even to the casual observer — committed perjury.
Hermann went out of his way to, in essence, nullify the law in order to clear the four lying cops of all wrongdoing. By his particular interpretation of the law — or, more accurately, his gymnastics routine to thwart it — the officers would have had to view the body cam footage prior to writing their report in order to have committed perjury.
As Balko notes, Evansville police procedure dictates officers must write reports prior to viewing any video of an incident — by definition that would mean Hermann’s strictures effectively render the law moot. Further,
“Hermann’s interpretation would seem to suggest that no Evansville officer could ever be charged with perjury for mischaracterizing a use-of-force incident in a police report. And this case only underscores the point. If this isn’t perjury, there is no perjury.”
Hermann asserted, “I have to show that they knowingly or intentionally lied for some reason. It’s common that they not watch the video prior to writing supplements. That’s an issue that we get all the time. And if we start going after police officers because there’s a line in a probable cause affidavit that contradicts what we see in the video, quite frankly we wouldn’t have any more Evansville police officers.”
Evansville Police Department officials dispute Hermann’s creatively-interpreted narrative of the beating — as well as the suggestion there exists a stunningly high number of discrepancies between reports and video footage.
But, for now, it seems Henderson, DeCamps, Craig, and Kassel, to varying degrees, will get away scot free for beating a handcuffed man and arrogantly lying about it in official reports. Following is the body cam video that should have given Healy a shot at justice — instead it serves as further reminder of the definitive American Police State:
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