A white Indianapolis police officer is suspended without pay after video showed him punching a 17-year-old Black boy Thursday outside of school.
The officer, Robert Lawson, along with another Indianapolis cop was called to Shortridge High School to help with a “large fight” around 1:30 p.m., according to a statement NBC affiliate WTHR obtained from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
When the officers arrived, one teen was in custody and the officers were asked to help with the boy’s mother, police said in the statement.
That’s when video shared on Facebook Thursday showed the mother and officers getting into a heated argument. One officer on the scene can be heard asking the mother to leave the property. The mother had been trying to enter the school to retrieve the belongings of her son and his 17-year-old male cousin, both of who apparently had been jumped in the fights
“For what,” the woman asked on the video, “for protecting my child?”
Although it’s unclear if Lawson is talking to the 17-year-old or his cousin’s mother, he can be heard on video asking:
“You want to go to jail? You want to go to jail? Let’s go!”
“Everybody chill out bro. Chill out,” someone else on the scene said just as the teen stepped up to the officer.
The two were face-to-face when the video showed Lawson swing on the child and hit him in the face.
Lawson said he feared the boy was going to strike him and “threw an open hand palm strike” at the minor, RTV6 reported.
Police also said in a report the Daily Mail obtained that the “student attempted to assault” the officer and swung at him “a split second before (the officer) threw a palm strike, however (the student) did not make contact.”
The video did not show the student attempting to hit the officer.
The boy received a five-day suspension from school, WTHR reported. It’s unclear why the teen was suspended.
Indianapolis police Chief Bryan Roach said Saturday in a statement WTHR obtained that police officials spent the last 36 hours reviewing video of the incident and having “extensive internal discussions.”
“The video shows a clear image of a closed fist punch to the face, a technique which is not taught or reasonable given the facts known to us at this time,” Roach said. “The incident has been turned over to investigators, who understand this case is a priority and have been advised to be as timely as possible.”
Roach added that “facts brought forward through the ongoing investigations in both the criminal and administrative processes will then be used to determine any final decisions.”
The video garnered numerous reactions with over 4,000 shares and nearly 2,000 comments.
One person commented, “F*ck that officer go punch someone your size b*tch I hope your life goes to hell for punch a young man like that I’m pretty sure he called him the n word also.” Another added, “F*cking bully would never pull that shit if he didn’t have a gun, badge, and another bully with him and he fucking knows it. COWARDS.”
“He wouldn’t have thrown that punch if he sees that boy like his son, brother or nephew. He woulda handled the situation differently”, another added.
Indianapolis Public Schools and the district Superintendent Aleesia Johnson have released statements regarding the incident.
Johnson said on Facebook:
“As a black woman and a mother of black children, it isn’t possible to watch the video of the incident that occurred yesterday at Shortridge without immediately thinking about the other incidents in our country that occur between white police officers and black people, especially males. Often, I am left feeling a number of emotions—devastation often chief among them.
Johnson went on to say the district and school community are working to aid the school-wide culture and hold to a district priority around racial equity.
“And while our IPS team investigates and awaits the outcomes of the IMPD investigation, we can’t ignore how the dynamics of race in both our city and our country consistently undergird these situations and leave our community feeling angry, hurt and, in some cases, hopeless,” Johnson said. “I refuse to be hopeless.”
Attorney Terrance Kinnard has reportedly taken on the family’s case and released a statement to the Daily Mail.
“Like many, we are shocked by the behavior depicted in the video currently circulating on social media networks. Over the coming days my staff and I will investigate all of the facts before deciding on a proper course of action,” Kinnard said.
Advocacy group, The IMPD Transparency Project, has called for Robert Lawson’s removal.
“This latest incident of police brutality, like all cases of police terror, is uncalled for and unnecessary,” the organization said on Facebook Friday.