Indianapolis, IN – A federal judge is permitting portions of a lawsuit filed by the family of Dreasjon Reed to move forward, despite the fact that the officer who fatally shot him was cleared of wrongdoing.
A grand jury determined in November of 2020 that Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Officer De’Joure Mercer was justified in using deadly force against Reed after Reed shot at him on May 6, 2020, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Reed, 21, had allegedly been involved in two drive-by shootings prior to livestreaming the high-speed police chase and gun battle with Officer Mercer, and was later found to have used a gun stolen from a Texas pawn shop during the attack.
Reed’s mother, Demetree Wynn, filed a lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis, IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, Officer Mercer, and others in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in June of 2020, alleging she deserved to be financially compensated for her son’s death, The Indianapolis Star.
The lawsuit alleged IMPD officers have “routinely disregarded” the agency’s use-of-force policies, and that Reed’s death “resulted from the unconstitutional custom and practice of IMPD officers who routinely use deadly force to apprehend suspects who are young black men,” according to the news outlet.
U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued a ruling on April 14 declaring Wynn’s lawsuit presented no evidence that Chief Taylor played a role in Officer Mercer’s use of deadly force, or that IMPD officers frequently violate black suspects’ constitutional rights, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Magnus-Stinson also dismissed Wynn’s claims that Officer Mercer used excessive force by deploying his Taser during the confrontation with Reed, as well as her allegations that Officer Mercer violated Reed’s constitutional rights by not providing him with medical assistance after the Taser was deployed, according to the news outlet.
The judge did allow the lawsuit to proceed on other points, including the allegation that Officer Mercer used excessive force during the fatal officer-involved shooting, WXIN reported.
Claims regarding inadequate medical care, inadequate training, and battery and wrongful death allegations against Officer Mercer and the City of Indianapolis will be allowed to move forward, The Indianapolis Star reported.
A jury trial is scheduled for June 20, according to WXIN.
Magnus-Stinson encouraged both parties “to work with the Magistrate Judge to reach a resolution of this case short of trial.”
The encounter between Reed and Officer Mercer began shortly before 6 p.m. on May 6, 2020 when IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams spotted someone in a gray Toyota Corolla driving recklessly on Interstate 65, according to The Washington Post.
The suspect, later identified by his family as Reed, was traveling “at a high rate of speed and disobeying all traffic signals,” and nearly slammed into other vehicles as he exited the interstate, police said.
Deputy Chief Adams, who was in an unmarked vehicle, attempted to stop the reckless driver and radioed for additional assistance, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Chief Taylor, who happened to be traveling behind Deputy Chief Adams in a second unmarked vehicle, joined the pursuit as Reed sped away at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.
When officers in marked patrol vehicles arrived in the area, Chief Taylor and Deputy Chief Adams turned the chase over to them – a move that is standard procedure for officers in unmarked vehicles, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Meanwhile, a shirtless Reed began streaming the chase on Facebook Live under the title, “High speed chase lol,” according to The Washington Post.
“You gotta look,” he told the thousands of viewers who tuned in as he pointed the camera at the patrol vehicle following behind him, according to The Indianapolis Star. “It’s just one right now.”
“Almost lost him, y’all!” he announced a moment later. “Almost got rid of his -ss!”
An IMPD sergeant terminated the chase just minutes later due to the suspect’s dangerous speeds and recklessness, The Indianapolis Star reported.
“I’m not going to jail today!” Reed yelled in the video.
A short while later, an IMPD officer spotted Reed driving eastbound on 62nd Street, The Indianapolis Star reported.
“I’m gonna park this motherf–ker!” Reed squealed in the video. “Somebody come get my stupid -ss! I’m on 62nd and Michigan, I just parked this mother–ker imma go! Please come get me!”
Reed then jumped out of the vehicle and took off running.
The officer chased the suspect on foot for a moment before he and Reed got into a confrontation, IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said, according to The Indianapolis Star.
The officer also deployed his Taser at some point during the encounter, according to The Washington Post.
“Stop! Stop!” the officer ordered in the video.
“F–k you!” Reed yelled back.
The suspect then shot at the officer, who returned fire, WTHR reported.
Reed yelled out and appeared to collapse to the ground with his cell phone pointed up at the sky as the livestream continued.
More than 16,000 people had tuned in to watch the video by that time, according to The Indianapolis Star.
Officers removed the gun from Reed’s hand after the gunfight so emergency medical technicians could assist him, Indiana State Police (ISP) Lieutenant Jeffrey Hearon said, according to The Indianapolis Star.
Reed was pronounced dead at the scene, The Washington Post reported.
Officer Mercer later filed a since-abandoned defamation lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) after they chose to paint Reed as a victim of police violence as part of their “Inspire Change” campaign in 2021.
ISP said evidence in Reed’s phone indicated he was involved in two drive-by shootings prior to livestreaming the police chase and gun battle with Officer Mercer, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Cartridges collected by police in those cases matched the gun Reed fired at Officer Mercer, the ISP said.
According to Lt. Hearon, Reed had stolen the firearm from a Texas pawn shop.
But despite Reed’s alleged history of carrying out drive-by shootings with a stolen gun and attempting to murder a police officer, the NFL chose to paint him as a victim and showcased his name and photo as part of their helmet decal “Inspire Change” program.
“Say His Name: Dreasjon Reed,” the NFL proclaimed in a Facebook post on Dec. 16, 2020. “Dreasjon is one of the many individuals being honored by players and coaches this season through the NFL’s helmet decal program.”
The NFL posted a photo of Reed, captioned with his date of birth and the date he died, as well as a quote from his mother.
“He deserves justice!” Wynn declared. “He was a human being, a son, a brother, and a friend. He is my son and I love him.”
Say His Name: Dreasjon Reed
Dreasjon is one of the many individuals being honored by players and coaches this season through the NFL’s helmet decal program.#SayTheirStories: https://t.co/vwi75WmNxr pic.twitter.com/wWaasw6LBp
— NFL (@NFL) December 16, 2020
Officer Mercer subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL, alleging the “Say Their Stories” video the league published about Reed ended up causing the officer “tortious injury,” WTHR reported.
At one point in the video, the NFL touted it’s “Inspire Change” campaign as “a mission to go beyond [the victims’] names to dig deeper, to reveal who they really were, and why they are no longer with us,” according to the lawsuit.
The NFL featured a photo of Reed over the last portion of that tagline, WTHR reported.
“The Video gives rise to the inference, implication, and imputation that Mercer committed occupational misconduct and even criminal acts during the May 6 encounter with Reed, similar to that which were inflicted upon George Floyd,” according to the lawsuit. “This inference, implication, and imputation is false because Mercer committed no such acts.”
“Similarly, the Video accuses Mercer of committing acts amounting to ‘social injustice,’ which is unequivocally and demonstrably false,” the lawsuit notes.
Officer Mercer said he had to field questions from family, friends, and acquaintances over the officer-involved shooting due to the NFL’s slanted portrayal of what occurred, WTHR reported.
He also received a slew of threats on social media and over the phone, many of which specifically mentioned the NFL video, according to the lawsuit.
The officer ultimately ended up selling his home – where he had lived by himself – in order to move in with a friend for his own safety, WRTV reported.
Officer Mercer suffered damage to his reputation and “severe emotional distress and personal physical injury” as a result of the campaign, and will thereby “suffer millions of dollars of damages and financial losses throughout the course of his life,” the lawsuit read, according to WTHR.
“De’Joure Mercer is a hero,” his attorney, Guy Relford, told WRTV shortly after the suit was filed. “He tracked down a very dangerous criminal wanted by the police, who was a threat to the citizens of Indianapolis. He put his life on the line and was nearly killed in that effort.”
Relford noted that Officer Mercer is also a black man, WXIN reported.
“He was completely exonerated after an exhaustive investigation into the death of Mr. Reed,” Relford continued. “For NFL Enterprises then to suggest he was involved in police or racist misconduct is totally false, defamatory and unacceptable.”
Officer Mercer dropped his lawsuit in August of 2021, The Indianapolis Star reported.
“We’re voluntarily dismissing it and pending other developments we may or may not refile it in state court,” Relford said at the time.
Todd McMurtry, another lawyer representing the officer, said they were “considering their options” with regards to the case, The Indianapolis Star reported.