Suspended IMPD officer charged with battery, false reporting after punching teen

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer involved in an altercation with a 17-year-old high school student was criminally charged Monday in a Marion County court.

According to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Robert Lawson faces charges of battery, obstruction of justice, perjury, false informing and official misconduct. Online court records show he was formally charged Monday afternoon and processed at the county jail. A pretrial conference was set for Nov. 1.

The incident, which was captured on video, happened Aug. 29 outside of Shortridge High School. The video appears to show the officer striking the 17-year-old Shortridge High School student.

According to Indianapolis Public Schools and the prosecutor’s office, IMPD officers were requested for support at Shortridge to disperse a large disturbance and hallway fight between boys.

“The 17-year-old had been involved in that fight and was being escorted off the school’s property into the custody of his aunt when the confrontation between the aunt, juvenile, and IMPD Officer Lawson occurred,” said a news release issued Monday by the prosecutor’s office.

The prosecutor’s office said Lawson, in official documents, said that he struck the student with an open palm due to fear that the student was going to hit him. Lawson, in the documents, also said officers then handcuffed the 17-year-old without any further force.

However, those statements are thought to be false as the student was not taken into custody, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Lawson is also thought to have lied when asked about statements made on the documents.

The prosecutor’s office said in a news release, “Further, according to the charging documents filed today, Officer Lawson reported that another officer present for the incident stated she observed the 17-year-old swing his fist at Officer Lawson a split second before Officer Lawson threw the palm strike. In an interview with investigators, that officer denied making the statement that she observed the 17-year-old swing his fist.”

Lawson had previously been suspended without pay.

John Kautzman, Lawson’s attorney, said in an email to News 8, “We look forward to a full and fair review of ALL the evidence in this case, including the officer’s observations, perceptions and training as it relates to the entirety of this encounter.”

Statements

“We (Indianapolis activist groups Indy10 Black Lives Matter, IMPD Transparency, and ANSWER Indiana) support the decision to charge Officer Robert Lawson with the crimes he committed: battery, obstruction of justice, perjury, false informing, and official misconduct. We support the decision to recommend to the Merit Board that he be terminated.

“We demand that Lawson be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the crimes he committed and attempted to cover up using his position as a law enforcement officer. We demand Terry Curry not offer Lawson an easy way out through a plea bargain or by reducing or dropping charges.

“This is not the only incident this year in which IMPD officers have been caught lying on official paperwork to cover for their misconduct. We demand justice for all who have been wronged by IMPD.”

Noah R. Leininger, local co-coordinator, Answer Indiana

“Superintendent Aleesia Johnson and the IPS Board of School Commissioners are supportive of the decision made today by Prosecutor Curry. We will continue to monitor this situation as it is adjudicated. We will also continue to work with everyone in our community to make sure that all of our children are provided a safe and secure learning environment.”

Carrie Cline Black, communications manager, Indianapolis Public Schools

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Author: Staff Reports


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