INDIANAPOLIS -- Officers knew Aaron Bailey’s passenger was connected to a homicide case – and that may have impacted their decision to shoot him, according to a report by the special prosecutor.
A 16-page report released by special prosecutor Kenneth P. Cotter on Tuesday outlined his decision not to charge Officers Carlton Howard and Michael Dinnsen for Bailey’s shooting.
The report offers insight into what Howard and Dinnsen knew about Bailey and his passenger, 26-year-old Shiwanda Ward, when they decided to open fire.
The incident began as a routine traffic stop after Bailey’s license came up suspended.
At first, Bailey pulled over, and he and Ward handed over their IDs to Howard.
A check on Bailey’s came back that he had a number of convictions and was a suspect in multiple robberies. Although he was on GPS monitoring at the time – and, in fact, the battery on his monitor had died – police were never aware that he may have been in violation of it and there was no related warrant out for his arrest.
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For Ward, Howard received a note to contact IMPD homicide detectives because she was “being monitored” in a homicide. The note didn’t specify whether she was a suspect or witness. The report does not indicate which homicide Ward may have a connection to.
Howard contacted the detective and returned to the car, where he asked Bailey to step outside since he was on a suspended license. According to the report, Bailey was acting so nervous that Ward was telling him to calm down.
Instead of getting out of the car, police say Bailey fled – crashing into a tree a short distance away.
At that point, Officers Howard and Dinnsen, who had arrived during the traffic stop to provide backup, said they approached the car yelling for Bailey and Ward to put their hands up.
The officers said Ward complied, but that Bailey instead began to “rummage” around in the vehicle’s center console.
Ward told investigators she thought the force of the crash popped open the center, but a crash reconstructionist determined the force of the collision could not have raised the lid to the upright position it was found in.
Dennisen said he yelled for Bailey to put his hands up seven-to-10 times, and that he heard Howard yell that Bailey was “digging” – a term, according to the report, used by IMPD to describe a suspect looking for a weapon.
At that point, Dennisen said Bailey, continuing to ignore his orders to put his hands up, turned toward Howard.
Believing Bailey was about to shoot Howard, Dennisen said he then fired at Bailey five times through the back windshield.
In total, 11 shots were fired. Four of those struck Bailey. Ward was uninjured.
Ward told police she was stunned when the airbags deployed and was unable to see or hear anything until the first shots were fired. After that she said she heard Bailey say, “They shot me, baby,” and officers yelling for them to put their hands up.
A neighbor told police he saw a car race by his house and then heard the crash, followed by officers yelling and then gunshots. A second neighbor reported only hearing shots. Neither of them actually saw the crash or the shooting.
Based on the testimony of Ward and the two officers, Cotter said there was insufficient evidence “to refute either the officer’s claim of subjective fear or the objective reasonableness of that fear.”
Cotter’s 16-page report laid out 11 bullet-points it found in support of the officers’ claim of self-defense:
- Bailey’s unwillingness to cooperate with the original traffic stop (to get out of the vehicle), though the original purpose of the stop was simply a traffic violation and driving while suspended;
- Bailey’s physical display of nervousness at the original stop, to the point where even his passenger (Ms. Ward) advised him to settle down;
- Bailey’s felonious flight at high speed from the lawful traffic stop;
- Bailey’s flight was terminated not by his own choice to acquiesce to the police encounter, but by his crash into a tree;
- The officers’ knowledge that Bailey had been a suspect in prior robberies;
- The officers’ knowledge that the passenger (Ms. Ward) was wanted in association with a homicide;
- Bailey’s decision to turn, after the crash, toward the center console;
- Bailey’s decision to open the center console;
- Bailey’s placing his hands out of sight of the officers, disregarding continued instructions to show his hands;
- Ms. Ward’s decision to raise her hands consistent with the officers’ statements that they were yelling that command;
- Mr. Bailey’s act of turning away from the open center console instead of showing his hands.
On Tuesday, following the special prosecutor’s announcement, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced he had ordered an administrative review of the shooting to begin effective immediately.
A civil rights investigation opened by the FBI into the case also remains ongoing, according to Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott.
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