‘I didn’t become a police officer to do this’


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Jetra Daniels, of New Direction Church, reads a statement on behalf of Aaron Bailey’s family before the final day of Civilian Police Merit Board hearings.
Mykal McEldowney, [email protected]

2:25 p.m. update: What have you gleaned from this incident professionally and personally, the Civilian Police Merit Board asked Officer Michal P. Dinnsen as it considered whether he should lose his job after fatally shooting an unarmed motorist?

“It’s a traumatic incident … for everybody involved,” said Dinnsen, as the tears returned.

“It’s never something I wanted to do or be a part of,” his voice rising higher with breaks. “I didn’t become a police officer to do this. 

“I’ve had to rely on my friends … my family. I’ve become stronger … my faith in God, my marriage with my wife.”

“I’ve seen the impact of these actions across the community in my own personal life,” he said. “I feel terrible about what transpired but,” his voice stopping momentarily, “I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to do deal with these kinds of issues.

“I really hope that I can be of some help to somebody else down the line,” Dinnsen said, whether that is support or new training, to “stop these kinds of issues from happening.”

Dinnsen suggested getting out into the community to talk.

“I’ve grown personally. Spiritually. I just really hope that no one ever has to go through something like this.” 

12:45 p.m. update: Aaron Bailey was ‘frantically’ searching in the car’s console, officer in shooting says

Officer Michal P. Dinnsen gave this account Thursday of events leading up to the fatal shooting of unarmed motorist Aaron Bailey:

Dinnsen was sitting in a parking lot around Riverside and 16th Street when Officer Carlton J. Howard notified him on their in-car radios that Howard was going to make a traffic stop. 

Dinnsen arrived to the traffic stop and saw Howard with identification cards in his hands. Dinnsen walked to the passenger side window of Howard’s patrol car. 

Howard told Dinnsen that Bailey was nervous. Howard ran Bailey’s name through his computer and saw several returns.

“The more warrant returns you get, the more likely this is the suspect,” Dinnsen told a Civilian Police Merit Board hearing, even accounting for other people who share a name.

Bailey’s background included robberies, Dinnsen said. 

Another long criminal history appeared when searching the passenger’s name, Dinnsen said. He learned she was being monitored in a homicide investigation, as well.

Now, Dinnsen said, he was concerned about “a possible homicide suspect and a serious violent felon in the vehicle.” 

Dinnsen said Bailey continued to look back at the officers, which Dinnsen said is unusual because most people tend to look away from the patrol cars’ bright lights. 

Bailey and the passenger also were talking a lot, which concerned Dinnsen that the two may have been talking about how to ditch a potential weapon or drive away, he said. 

Howard wanted to remove Bailey from the car first, Dinnsen said. 

Dinnsen stood at the rear passenger side of the vehicle, Dinnsen said, which would allow him to quickly help Howard if Bailey or his passenger were to start running. 

Dinnsen said he couldn’t hear what Bailey said but he heard Howard tell him to get out of the car. 

After the third command, Dinnsen said, Bailey started looking around. Dinnsen has been trained that this serves as a visual cue that a suspect is going to start running. 

When Bailey started driving away, Dinnsen said he alerted fellow patrol officers via radio and then jumped into his car to follow the pursuit. 

As the second car, Dinnsen handled the radio traffic while Howard focused on driving in his patrol car, Dinnsen said.

“What’s in this car that he doesn’t want us to find?” Dinnsen said.

Bailey did not slow down at the stop sign at 23rd and Harding streets, Dinnsen said. 
Bailey was “so desperate to get away from us that he didn’t care about” his safety, Dinnsen said. 

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘We know who he is,’” Dinnsen said. “A warrant is coming for him. So why then is he fleeing?” 

Dinnsen said he reached 60 or 65 miles per hour during the pursuit. Dinnsen said he didn’t see the crash but heard Howard announce it on the radio.

Howard pulled up to the left while Dinnsen pulled up to the right, Dinnsen said. They were attempting to execute what is called a “tactical V,” he said, which describes the positioning of the cars behind a suspect’s car.  

Dinnsen parked about 15 feet away from Bailey’s car. He left his patrol car, drew his weapon and planned to walk to Howard’s passenger door. 

“We had done these kinds of stops in the past,” Dinnsen said, and trained on the situation. 

Being at different spots outside the vehicle, Dinnsen said, means a suspect can’t focus on both officers at the same time. But being close also allows the two officers to communicate, Dinnsen said.

After taking a few steps that way, Dinnsen said he remembered that his elbow had locked the passenger door. He realized walking to the patrol car was a bad decision, Dinnsen said, and he started walking back to his patrol car. 

Dinnsen said he yelled commands to get hands up. He saw the passenger raise her hands, but Bailey did not. 

Dinnsen saw Bailey turn to the right and open the car’s center console.

“After he got that lid open, he began to dig in the console,” Dinnsen said, “to frantically search in the console.” 

“Him digging in the console means he’s trying to retrieve something,” Dinnsen said. 
Dinnsen is concerned that he is reaching for a weapon.

“This is all happening very quickly,” Dinnsen said. 

Dinnsen sat in a rolling chair to mimic the movements of Bailey. 

Bailey was not reaching for a seat belt, Dinnsen said. His hands were inside the console. 

Dinnsen then, for the court room, shouted, “Get your hands up. Get your hands up now!”

At that point, tears collected in Dinnsen’s eyes and the courtroom fell silent. Dinnsen and his attorney, Merchant, walked out of the courtroom for a few moments. 

Erica Bailey, Aaron’s Bailey’s daughter, also began crying from a seat in the audience.

The merit board called for a small break.

Earlier story: ‘I don’t think I could have waited another split second,’ officer in Bailey shooting says

An IMPD officer whose job is on the line after fatally shooting an unarmed motorist said Thursday that taking a life is “awful” but even a moment’s hesitation in such critical moments can put his life in danger.

“It’s awful having to take someone else’s life,” Carlton J. Howard said during a Civilian Police Merit Board hearing. “Hindsight being 20/20, sir, I don’t think I could have waited another split second. … I thought I was going to be shot that night.”

What if anything, a member of the merit board asked Howard, have you gleaned from the fatal shooting of Aaron Bailey? Both personal and professional.

“Sir, personally, I uh, it’s awful,” Howard said. “It’s not, it’s not something that I wanted to do. It’s not why I came here. It’s not why I joined the department. The fact that he wasn’t armed … that’s my burden to carry.”

‘I thought I was going to die’: IMPD officer utters first public words in Bailey shooting

Pray-in protest: Protesters pray for firing of 2 officers who shot Aaron Bailey

Howard said he had little experience but did cite one aspect of the job he was well-aware of.

“I know if we do wait to see a gun,” he said, “the statistics show we’re not coming home. 

“I’ve only been on three years. I think we can really use this … and maybe find some better training.”

Erica Bailey, Aaron Bailey’s daughter, started softly crying during Howard’s final comments. As the merit board took a small break, she walked out of the back of the room, her head bowed into her hands.

Howard’s comments came during a Civilian Police Merit Board hearing that stretched into its third day Thursday. Bailey, 45, was unarmed when Howard and another officer, Michal P. Dinnsen, fatally shot him after a traffic stop, short pursuit and minor crash. The seven-member board is considering whether to support Chief Bryan Roach’s recommendation to fire the two officers

A special prosecutor cleared the officers of criminal charges, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove the officers were not justified in using deadly force. Roach, however, is saying they violated department policy and training.

Howard on Thursday said he shot Bailey in the back because he saw him digging near the car’s console, raise his arm and turn toward another officer.

“How far did Bailey turn before you shot?” city attorney Melissa Coxey asked officer Carlton J. Howard.

“I don’t know how else I can articulate,” Howard said. “I cannot tell you to the exact degree.”

If Bailey is turning quickly, Coxey asked, how did you get off six shots, while moving, only hitting Bailey in the back?

Howard said he aimed for Bailey’s back. “That would have been center mass,” Howard said, where officers are trained to fire.

David Wantz, who is chairing the merit board for the hearing, asked Howard a slew of questions regarding Howard’s positioning and decision-making. Two exchanges centered on whether Bailey wore a seat belt.

“You have an exquisite memory of 18 seconds,” Wantz said, referring to the time between the car crash and the shooting.

He asked: Was Bailey wearing a seat belt?

I don’t know, Howard said.

Wantz later brought up Bailey’s reaching to the center of the car. Howard had testified that Howard reached between the console and the seat.

Wantz asked: What else is between the console and seat?

Just that gap, Howard replied.

Wantz asked: And the seat belt?

“Yes, yes sir,” Howard said.

Howard’s testimony began Wednesday, when he walked through how a routine traffic stop early June 29 escalated into the police chase that ended with Bailey crashing into a tree and, finally, with both officers firing a total of 11 shots into the back of Bailey’s car. 

The officers felt threatened, Howard said, because Bailey acted nervous during the initial traffic stop. Officers pulled from a patrol car’s computer Bailey’s criminal background, which contained 15 police interactions, nine arrests and at least one armed robbery. A passenger in Bailey’s car also was being monitored in a homicide investigation. 

After the crash, Howard said, the officer pulled his patrol car behind Bailey’s car. He commanded Bailey to show his hands, which Bailey did not do, Howard said. 

Instead, Bailey reached into an area between his driver seat and the car’s center console, Howard said. Bailey rose his right arm and moved to the left, where Howard had been standing, he said.

That’s when Howard fired, he said. Dinnsen, standing elsewhere, also shot. 

Four bullets struck Bailey’s back. Police never found a gun. 

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This story will be updated.

Call IndyStar reporter Ryan Martin at (317) 444-6294. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @ryanmartin 

CATCH UP ON PRIOR REPORTING:

Special prosecutor’s report: How he reached decision to clear officers of criminal charges

What to know: Merit board will decide whether to fire two officers

Merit board, 1st day: ‘Unreasonable’ that 11 shots were fired, IMPD deputy chief says

Merit board, 2nd day: ‘I thought I was going to die’: IMPD officer utters first public words in Bailey shooting

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