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Published On: Tue, Apr 16th, 2019

Justice Department Closes Review into the Death of Aaron Bailey

Josh J. Minkler, the United States Attorney, announced today that the independent federal review into the fatal shooting of Indianapolis resident Aaron Bailey on June 29, 2017, found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal civil rights charges against the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers involved in the shooting.

Federal authorities conducted a comprehensive and independent review of all evidence gathered during multiple investigations and proceedings relating to the shooting.  These materials included, among other things, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department homicide investigation, the investigation and report of the appointed state special prosecutor, the proceedings before the Indianapolis Civilian Police Merit Board, and the independent investigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Photo/Jan Marcus

Based on this review, career federal prosecutors determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove any violation of the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, 18 U.S.C. § 242.  Under this statute, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one or both of the officers involved in the shooting deprived Mr. Bailey of a constitutionally protected right, and that the officer did so willfully.  To prove the constitutional violation, the government would have to show that the officer used force that was objectively unreasonable based on all of the surrounding circumstances.  Moreover, the law requires that this determination allow for the fact that law enforcement officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving, and also requires that an officer’s force be judged without the benefit and added perspective of hindsight.

To prove that an officer-involved shooting violated 18 U.S.C. § 242, the government also would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer acted willfully, meaning that the officer knew that his actions were unlawful and he acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids.  Even negligence, mistake, and bad judgment are insufficient to establish a criminal violation.

Based on a determination that the evidence in this case is insufficient to meet the high legal standard set by the law, the United States Attorney’s Office, in consultation with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, has closed this matter without prosecution.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana, the Civil Rights Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers, and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all serious allegations of civil rights violations are thoroughly examined.  The Department will aggressively prosecute criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so and justice requires.

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