MARION COUNTY, INDIANA – The story seemed plausible enough. At first.
A man being processed before he was taken to jail threatened to start a riot. A Marion County sheriff’s deputy said he had no choice but to take the man down. While they grappled, the man bit him on the thumb. The deputy was forced to throw a punch.
But investigators say Deputy David Carrico’s story isn’t true.
And they say they have the video to prove it.
On Friday, Carrico, 28, was fired and charged with felony official misconduct and two misdemeanors — battery and false reporting — in what investigators say is an unprovoked attack on Harry Hooks Jr, a 42-year-old Indianapolis man.
Hooks had been arrested May 20 on suspicion of driving away from a car crash and was taken to the Arrestee Processing Center near the jail Downtown.
Marion County Sheriff’s Col. Eva Talley-Sanders said surveillance video taken that night at the processing center shows Hooks’ hands were cuffed behind his back when Carrico pushed him up against a wall. She said Carrico then slammed Hooks onto the concrete floor, climbed on top of him and punched him in the head.
“It’s just horrible,” she said. He was “essentially beating him up.”
Carrico’s case is the latest example of a troubling trend involving Indianapolis-area law enforcement accused of wrongdoing.
In the past three months, six deputies, including Carrico, have resigned or been fired while under investigation for criminal misconduct or other wrongdoing.
And that’s just the Sheriff’s Department. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department also has had its share of officer misconduct issues — including another that came to light Friday.
An IMPD officer, Thomas Bordenkecher, was charged Thursday with misdemeanor battery and intimidation for an off-duty altercation.
Meanwhile, sheriff’s investigators say it’s not entirely clear what triggered the incident at the processing center. They are not releasing a videotape of the incident, citing an ongoing investigation.
According to the affidavit, sheriff’s investigators say the video shows Hooks standing in the processing center along with five other arrestees when Carrico put him in a “hand hold” and took him to another area.
It was there, with the two alone, that investigators say the video shows Carrico grabbed Hooks by the neck and threw him on the concrete floor. With Hooks pinned to the floor, they say Carrico punched him in the head.
The affidavit says Hooks later was taken to the hospital where he had a “questionable nasal fracture,” cuts and a bruise on the right eye.
He later filed a complaint that led to the investigation.
The affidavit says the video shows that before Carrico pulled Hooks aside, “all the arrestees in the receiving room were compliant and no one appeared to be acting in a riotous manner.”
Though not mentioned in the affidavit, a press release issued earlier on Friday by the Sheriff’s Department said the video showed Hooks refusing to face in the right direction, and he can be heard calling deputies “racists” before Carrico took him to the other area.
Talley-Sanders said the Sheriff’s Department has asked federal authorities to determine whether Hooks’ civil rights were violated.
A woman who answered the door at Hooks’ address Friday afternoon declined to comment.
Police reports show that Carrico, who has been a deputy for seven years, has been involved in at least four other altercations with suspects in the past two years. In each case, according to the probable cause affidavits, Carrico claimed he was injured. And in each case, he claimed the inmate needed to be violently restrained.
Back in March, Carrico was involved in an incident with an inmate at the processing center who had already been charged with resisting law enforcement.
The arrestee swung his elbow at Carrico’s face, the police report alleges. As they grappled, Carrico hit his head on the wall or the metal door, making him dizzy. The suspect hit his head as well, the report states, as authorities were “placing him on the ground.”
In November 2010, Carrico got a “sore knee” while trying to handcuff a suspect who was picked up on an active warrant. The suspect kicked Carrico, the report states, and in the process the suspect “lost his balance” and “fell onto the parking lot.”
Sheriff’s officials said Friday they hadn’t gone back to look into the other incidents, but that Carrico may have acted appropriately.
“Most certainly, he could have been the victim,” Talley-Sanders said.
Carrico is the only recent sheriff’s deputy to face charges stemming from an on-duty incident. The rest happened off the clock.
Michael McKittrick, 29, was arrested May 26 after investigators say he fired a rifle in his apartment while drunk.
Douglas Tibbs, 33, resigned on May 22 — two days before he was charged with burglary and theft of prescription drugs.
Donald Prout, 32, resigned on March 28, about a week after being charged with theft and “ghost employment,” a charge stemming from allegations he worked for a private security firm while he was supposed to be serving warrants or attending training classes.
Ryan Radez, 29, was fired in February after being arrested and charged with public intoxication for an incident during pre-Super Bowl festivities.
Matthew Prestel, 27, was also fired in February after Child Protective Services removed his two young children from his home because of unsafe living conditions.
Natasha Fogleman, a 29-year-old civilian dispatcher, was fired in January after she was arrested and charged with trafficking with an inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.
Sheriff’s investigators say that while troubling, the cases don’t point to a larger problem, either with training or screening for new hires.
They say some bad hires inevitably make it through when more than 1,000 employees, including 750 deputies, are on the payroll.
“I would put our screening and training up against any agency in the state,” said Maj. Scott Mellinger, the sheriff’s chief training officer and the former director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not minimizing the serious nature of the incidents. It not only makes us re-evaluate what we’re doing, it makes us angry and very, very disappointed.”
But at least one critic says the cases point to larger problems in recruiting qualified deputies.
Jim White, a 20-year state police veteran who now lectures at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said the issue lies with how the deputies receive their law enforcement authority.
While deputies such as Carrico may be sworn law enforcement officers who can carry weapons, make arrests and conduct investigations, technically they aren’t “certified” to state standards like Indiana State Police or IMPD officers.
Instead, the “special deputies,” who primarily work in the jails and serve court papers, are deputized by the sheriff and trained at an in-house facility run by Mellinger.
White said many of the most ideal candidates trend toward police departments that train their officers to be certified.
The Sheriff’s Department, White said, is “not getting the candidates they used to get in the past.”
Sheriff’s training officers, however, insist that even though the deputies aren’t “certified,” that doesn’t mean training is insufficient.
Mellinger said deputies still are required to undergo 161/2 weeks of law enforcement training — the same amount cadets receive at his former academy. Plus, new deputies also receive a two-week course in jail procedures.
Besides, he points out, there also have been serious problems at IMPD, so it’s not like being “certified” guarantees appropriate conduct.
Earlier this month, IMPD settled for $1.5 million with the family of Eric Wells, who was killed in August 2010 when officer David Bisard drove — allegedly while drunk — into Wells’ motorcycle. In April, Police Chief Paul Ciesielski resigned after it was revealed officers mishandled a blood sample of Bisard’s for a second time.
And on Friday, a trial in which IMPD officer David Butler was accused of stealing money from Hispanic motorists ended in a hung jury.
Capt. Michael Hubbs, who oversees all criminal investigations for the sheriff, said given the problems other agencies have faced, it would be unfair to single out the sheriff’s office.
“These are deputy sheriffs,” Hubbs said. “They’re trusted just like any police officer.”