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Police Officer Charged With Punching Black Student, Lying About It

By Michael Harriot, The Root

“Police reports are lies.”
Elie Mystal, Above the Law.

An Indiana police officer has been charged with assaulting a high school student more than two weeks after multiple witnesses and two videos caught the cop pummeling the teen as if… Well, there may be a more poetic metaphor, but the way the officer delivered the heinous punch can best be described with one simile:

Like a cop punching a black boy.

The Indianapolis Star reports that 43-year-old Robert Lawson was charged with battery, perjury and numerous other charges after a two-week investigation into a 27-second video that showed the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer striking a 17-year-old high school student to the ground. Prosecutors say that the 11-year-veteran not only punched the child with the fury of a thousand slavemasters, but they allege that the cop lied about nearly every aspect of the confrontation.

Lawson reportedly showed up at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Ind. on August 29 to break up a large fight, according to Fox 59. When police arrived, the school resource officers already had one juvenile in custody and the aunt of the child who was attacked was at the scene. The second video shows the officer approaching the aunt while yelling: “You want to go to jail? You want to go to jail? Let’s go!”

When the teen steps in between his aunt and the cop, Lawson punches the kid squarely in the face, sending the boy to the pavement.

When the cops wrote up the incident report, they claimed that the student “attempted to assault the officer,” and that he only delivered an “open palm” to the student. According to a federal lawsuit filed by the victim’s parents, Lawson ordered the child’s aunt to stop recording the incident and tried to confiscate the aunt’s phone. Lawson arrested the 17-year-old, charging resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. When the video surfaced on Facebook the next day, the police department released the teen, placed the officer on administrative leave and promised a full investigation.

A scant 18 days later, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced that Lawson hit the student “without a legitimate concern for self-defense” and then told internal investigators that the child had balled up his fists, “bladed his body” and gave him an angry look.

Seriously, he said that.

According to the Star, Lawson said the child “clinched his face in anger” but the investigating detective John Howard noted that, although the child’s face wasn’t visible in the footage, both hands were open and not making a fist. Lawson’s incident report also said that he immediately handcuffed the youngster but the video shows him kneeing the high-schooler in the chest. Lawson’s version also insisted that another officer on the scene, Sgt. Marzetta Jenkins (I’m gonna go ahead and say she’s Black) with the Indianapolis Public Schools Police Department, saw the student swing his fists. But when investigators asked Jenkins, she denied saying any such thing.

It turns out that investigators thought Lawson was…Well, again, “lying like a white police officer” is the best I could come up with, which is probably what took Howard so long to write up the report and charge Lawson.

Similes are hard.

Plus, everyone knows how long it takes to watch a video of police wrongdoing. First, you have to rewind the tape and then you have to make sure the officer wasn’t fearing for his life against the well-documented wrath of a teenager armed with melanin and a tight face just made for punching.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson released a statement saying: “As a Black woman and a mother of Black children, it isn’t possible to watch the video of the incident that occurred yesterday at Shortridge without immediately thinking about the other incidents in our country that occur between white police officers and Black people, especially males.”

Lawson will turn himself in to authorities and face the charges of misdemeanor battery, false information (a misdemeanor), felony perjury, felony obstruction of justice and official misconduct—a felony.

During the press conference charging the cop, the prosecutor set aside a few seconds to attack the victim’s aunt, who was at the scene.

“This in no way excuses what the officer is accused of doing, obviously,” Curry said, according to WTHR. “But our hope would be that adults could act like adults. She screamed. She yelled. She dropped f-bombs. She dropped MF-ers. We simply would hope that adults could act like adults. What happened here, this whole circumstance would have been avoided.”

Wow. He attacked her like a motherf…

No. There’s gotta be a better simile.

Like a white man.

This article originally appeared in The Root.

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