The disciplinary cases against four Evansville police officers moves forward but not without another fight from the Fraternal Order of Police regarding the department’s prior release of the body camera video.
On October 29th, 2016 Officers Nick Henderson, Marcus Craig and Mark DeCamps responded to a burglary in progress at 714 E. Florida Street. Once they arrived, officers reported finding Mark Healy outside of the garage. According to body camera video released by EPD, Officer Henderson detains Healy and begins a pat down before apparently being pricked by a needle that was in Healy’s pocket. Officer Henderson then appears to strike Healy, eventually taking him to the ground. Officer Henderson also appears to press Healy’s face into the pavement. Another officer can be seen kicking Healy while he was on the ground.
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 Billy Bolin said. The officers also claimed there was a struggle in the probable cause affidavit. However, the body camera appears to contradict those claims. In early December, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann announced that he would not seek charges against any one of the four officers, citing the inability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
On Monday afternoon, the merit commission affirmed the February 21st and February 23rd dates to hold the disciplinary hearings against the four officers. It was also announced that Officers Henderson, DeCamps and Craig had sought outside counsel instead of choosing to be represented by FOP attorney Charlie Berger. Sgt. Kassel has opted to still be represented by Berger.
In addition to affirming the hearing dates, Berger formally requested that the merit commission review whether anyone else at the police department should be disciplined for releasing the body camera video. Berger alleged that the release of the video was in violation of state law because it occurred before the criminal investigation into the officers had been completed. Additionally, Berger said the FOP specifically requested that the police department not release the video until the internal investigation and criminal investigation had been completed.
Keith Vonderahe, the attorney representing the police department, said Berger’s allegations were baseless and the department followed the state’s open records laws concerning the release of body camera video.
“That’s throwing something against the wall here today and hoping it sticks,” Vonderahe said.
In a 2 to 1 vote, the merit commission voted down Berger’s request. After the hearing, Berger said, ‘anything is possible,’ when asked if he would seek any other legal avenues in regards to the request.
Also on Monday, the merit commission set a hearing date for the disciplinary case against Officer Jamarius Ward. As Eyewitness News first reported, Officer Ward faces a 21 day unpaid suspension after he allegedly continued to drive on a suspended license. Ward’s license became suspended following a traffic accident in which he was unable to provide proof of insurance, according to multiple law enforcement sources.
According to court records, Ward was cited for driving on a suspended license after members of the police department witnessed him driving when he should not have been, sources said.
Ward’s disciplinary hearing is set for mid-March. He has appealed the suspension.