Prosecutor Opts Not to File Criminal Charges Against EPD Officers

After reviewing a lengthy investigation conducted by Indiana State Police at the request of Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann announced on Thursday afternoon that he would not seek charges against any one of the four officers accused of misconduct during a man's burglary arrest in late October.

The determination not to file charges, Hermann said, was based off of the conclusion that prosecutors would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Nick Henderson intentionally battered Mark Healy, nor could prosecutors prove that Officers Mark DeCamps and Marcus Craig intentionally falsified information contained in the probable cause affidavit.

Officers Henderson, DeCamps and Craig were suspended for 21 days without pay by Chief Billy Bolin in early November. Chief Bolin has also recommended that the merit commission terminate the three veteran officers. Sergeant Kyle Kassel was also suspended for 21 days without pay. Chief Bolin has recommended that Sgt. Kassel be demoted.

The punitive actions by the police chief stem from allegations of police misconduct during the arrest of Mark Healy on burglary and other charges in late October.

On October 29th, Officers Henderson, Craig and DeCamps responded to a burglary in progress report and found Mark Healy outside of a garage located at 714 E Florida St. According to body camera video released by EPD, Officer Henderson detains Healy and begins a pat down. During the pat down, Officer Henderson appeared to reach into Healy's pocket when he was stuck by a needle, according to the body camera video. Officer Henderson then appears to strike. The video also appears to show Officers Henderson and Craig verbally abusing Healy. At one point, one of the officers threatens to shoot Healy if he ran.

Healy was handcuffed at the time of the alleged misconduct.

In the their use of force reports, the three officers claimed Healy engaged in a struggle with them, prompting the use of force, Chief Bolin said. The officers also claimed there was a struggle in the probable cause affidavit. However, the body camera appears to contradict those claims.

During a recent press conference announcing the suspensions and recommendations, Chief Bolin said the department's administration came across the discrepancies when the Internal Affairs Unit began reviewing the use-of-force reports. Per standard procedure, every time an officer uses force and the on-duty sergeant approves the report, Internal Affairs reviews the report and the related body camera video.

During a press conference in November, Chief Bolin also announced that he had contacted Indiana State Police and requested the agency conduct a criminal investigation into the officers. ISP's investigation culminated in a 22 page report that was submitted to and reviewed by the prosecutor's office.

Hermann said he and his office spent hours reviewing the information contained in that report and came upon the decision not to file charges.

Hermann opted not to file battery charges against Officer Henderson because he believed Henderson struck Healy unintentionally after getting stuck by the meth-infused needle inside Healy's pocket.

During a demonstration at Thursday's press conference, Hermann said Henderson had his left hand on Healy's handcuffs and tried reaching his right hand across Healy's body into his front pocket. After Henderson was stuck by the needle, he was startled, Hermann said. In the immediate reflex to getting stuck by the needle, Henderson raised his arm and unintentionally struck Healy with his elbow, Hermann argued.

Hermann then showed brief snippets of an 18-minute interview of Healy that was conducted by Henderson's supervisor, Sgt. Kassel. In one of the brief clips, Healy can be heard telling Sgt. Kassel that the altercation was not anything that resembled a fist fight.

"It was more like wrestling to the ground. Yeah, it hurt a little," Healy told Sgt. Kassel.

Healy also said he 'understood' Henderson's reaction to getting poked by the needle, according to the interview.

Throughout the video, Officers Henderson and and Craig can be heard speaking and yelling at Healy in what Chief Bolin described as an 'abusive manner.'

After Healy's arrest, Officers DeCamps and Craig authored the probable cause affidavit because Officer Henderson was in the hospital being evaluated. Healy has Hepatitis C, according to the affidavit.

However, the affidavit -- an official court document -- has numerous inaccuracies. Perhaps the most egregious of the inaccuracies described how the physical altercation occurred.

"Henderson, [Craig], and DeCamps were attempting to get Healy into handcuffs [when] he was physically resisting and pulling away from officers," the affidavit states.

However, the body camera video shows the physical altercation occurred after Healy was placed into handcuffs. It's also disputed whether Healy even resisted arrest at all. On Thursday, Hermann announced that his office would be dropping the misdemeanor resisting arrest charge against Healy.

Despite the fact that all probable cause affidavits contain the phrase, 'I affirm under penalties of perjury that the foregoing representations are true to the best of my knowledge,' Hermann said he could not file perjury charges because he could not prove that DeCamps and Craig intentionally falsified the affidavit.

"I think the lack of investigation into this burglary precludes us from going after them for perjury because we don't have any information," Hermann said. "We only have those two paragraphs."

The affidavit was written a few minutes after 5 a.m., approximately three hours after the incident took place. Chief Bolin has previously stated that he had deep concerns about some of the discrepancies in the affidavit. Indiana State Police detectives also noted a similar concern, Hermann said.

Hermann also expressed concern with the apparent lack of supplemental information provided by the police department. The prosecutor's office still has not received numerous supplemental reports, test results and use-of-force reports, Hermann said. Hermann also alleged that his office did not receive the body camera video until it was obtained by Indiana State Police detectives. However, police department spokesman Sgt. Jason Cullum disputes Hermann's claim.

Saying he did not condone of the officers' actions, Hermann expressed concern with how the arrest was conducted.

"Did they break department policy? Did they say things they shouldn't have? Were they not as nice as they should have been? I think that's all up for interpretation. But yes, yes they did," Hermann said. "That's something that will be addressed in the merit commission and in their administrative proceedings. Should they face criminal charges? Should they be put in jail for those actions? No."

Hermann also expressed dismay with Chief Bolin's decision to release the body camera video. Hermann argued that doing so could have tainted the investigation and a potential jury pool.

"On November 1st, ISP was asked to investigate. On November 4th, [the video] was released and, as I recall, it was all over the news all night, all weekend and into the next week," Hermann said. "Then, ISP started interviewing people the following week."

During the course of the investigation, Hermann said Officer Henderson cooperated with state police investigators. However, Officers Craig and Decamps, through their attorneys, invoked their fifth amendment rights to remain silent.

Healy, who still remains in jail on bond, asked through his attorney for some sort of immunity to avoid making any statements that could possibly incriminate himself in his pending burglary case. Healy specifically asked for some sort of immunity, Hermann said.

However, Hermann opted not to grant his request, arguing that burglary cases are incredibly important and must be prosecuted.

"I'm not interested in trying to offer Mr. Healy a deal or reduce the charges against him in order to solicit his cooperation," Hermann said.

Hermann did say that he agreed that criminal investigations into law enforcement officers and the public's faith in law enforcement officers is also of importance.

"It's something we take very seriously. In this instance, however, we have no information that can put us past the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt," Hermann said.

While the officers will not face any criminal charges, Henderson, Craig and DeCamps all face the possibility of losing their jobs. The civilian police merit commission is expected to proceed with the disciplinary cases against the four officers. However, any sort of ruling by the commission isn't expected until well after December.

You can find the raw video of Thursday's press conference below.

 


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