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Special prosecutor clears Speedway cop in shooting of De'Aire Gray

Mentally ill man had a BB gun when he was shot by the officer, special prosecutor said
Posted at 2:23 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 17:02:04-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A special prosecutor on Thursday cleared a Speedway officer of criminal charges in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man during a foot chase in February.

Special Prosecutor Chris Gaal ruled that Officer Robby Harris acted in self-defense when fired the shots on Feb. 12 that later killed 28-year-old De'Aire Gray.

Gray was holding a BB gun when he was shot, Gaal said in a 24-page report filed Thursday in Marion Superior Court.

DeAire white suit.jpeg
De'Aire Gray, 28, was fatally shot by a Speedway police officer on Feb.12.

Harris, a 21-year veteran officer, "had a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to himself, and such belief was reasonable under the circumstances," Gaal wrote.

An attorney for Gray's family declined to comment Thursday.

Harris' attorney, John F. Kautzman, agreed with Gaal's conclusion.

"The evidence clearly demonstrated that (Harris) took actions consistent with his training and the law," Kautzman said in a statement. "Officer Harris now looks forward to returning to his duties and continuing to serve the residents of Speedway."

The shooting

Harris and other officers were called to the 5900 block of West 25th Street about 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 12 to investigate a man who had been living in a car and defecating in a parking lot.

The officers were talking to a neighbor when Gray got into the car.

Officers tried to talk to Gray, but a preliminary probable cause affidavit said he told them “he didn’t like how they were walking up on him.”

Gray ran; police chased him.

Gaal's report said Gray pulled a black BB gun from a bag moments before Harris shot him. The BB gun closely resembled a firearm and was recovered after Gray was shot, Gaal said.

The BB gun was also visible in Gray's hand on body camera and security camera footage, Gaal said in his report.

Gray died at Eskenazi Hospital on Feb. 21 of “multiple gunshot wounds,” according to the Marion County coroner’s office.

Mental illness

Tanya Atkins, Gray's mother, told WRTV that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Tanya Atkins
Tanya Atkins, mother of De'Aire Gray who was shot by Speedway police on Feb. 12 and died from his injuries.

Gray was not homeless. He lived with his mother in an apartment in the complex. His belongings were in the car because there wasn't enough room in the apartment.

Atkins also said the apartment has a bathroom and her son had no reason to defecate in the parking lot.

“I didn’t think something would happen like this over something so simple, something that I feel like could have been avoided,” Atkins told WRTV for a story published March 24. “His car was right there. If you thought that was his car, then come back another day. If you thought his stuff was in the car, then he had to come back for it.”

Gray had broken no laws before the officers began talking to him, David Lipschultz, Atkins’ lawyer, told WRTV in March.

"De’Aire was not posing a risk to himself," Lipschultz said. "He was not posing a risk to the officers and he was not posing a risk to the public. Why did they chase him?”

Gray was on electronic monitoring at the time in connection with 17 felony charges in a series of arson fires. He had been found mentally incompetent to stand trial in that case, records show, and had been assigned to a new community-based competency restoration treatment program.

Related: The death of De’Aire Gray: How one man slipped through the cracks of the mental health system

Related: Family of man killed by Speedway police wants body camera video released

In his report, Gaal sidestepped the question of whether the officers had legal authority to arrest Gray when he ran away from them.

"Regardless of whether the additional reasons articulated by the officers justified the attempted seizure/chase, or if Gray retained a right to resist an allegedly illegal arrest, such right did not extend to Gray threatening to use deadly force," Gaal wrote in a footnote to his report.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.