Omar Villafranca, NBC 5 News
Joyce Jackson says she finally got the chance to visit her son, Bobby Bennett, in the hospital after he was shot Monday by a Dallas police officer. Dallas Police Chief David Brown dropped an aggravated assault charge against Bennett, which allowed Jackson to visit her son.
Surveillance video showing a Dallas police officer shooting a mentally ill man standing still about 20 feet away contradicts the assertion of an officer that the man threatened his safety by lunging at him with a knife.
Bobby Gerald Bennett remains hospitalized after being shot in the stomach Monday. The officer who shot him, Cardan Spencer, is on indefinite administrative leave pending a criminal investigation after a neighbor released surveillance video that captured the incident.
Bennett was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a public servant, but Police Chief David Brown announced Friday that the charge would be dropped.
Chief Brown released a statement about the dropped charges:
"I have ordered that the Aggravated Assault charges be dropped against Bobby Gerald Bennett immediately and we will be assisting his mother with visitation at the hospital."
The shooting on Monday in the 9400 block of Crimnson Court was captured on video by a neighbor's surveillance camera.
Bennett's mother, Joyce Jackson, said in an interview Friday that her 52-year-old son has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and that he was off his medication at the time of the shooting. Jackson said she was arguing with Bennett when she called the police. She was told that officers who have been trained in dealing with the mentally ill would arrive to assist her.
The officers arrived outside her southeast Dallas home around noon to find Bennett sitting on a chair in the street holding a knife. At this point, accounts of the incident differ.
Spencer wrote in a police report that Bennett refused to drop the knife and moved toward him and another officer "in a threatening manner." Spencer says that's when he fired at Bennett four times from about 20 feet away, wounding him.
The video tells a different story. Although the police report says Bennett "lunged" at the officers with a knife, in the video he stands up from the chair but then doesn't appear to move at all until the gun is fired and he crumples to the ground.
The surveillance video doesn't include audio, and Spencer wrote in his report that Bennett yelled at them, "You all are gonna need more officers than this!" But it doesn't show that the incident "escalated, which led an officer to fire his weapon upon the individual," as police spokesman Warren Mitchell said in a statement a few hours after the shooting.
Chief Brown said in a statement Thursday night that Spencer has been placed on indefinite administrative leave pending a "thorough criminal investigation."
Bennett is in an intensive care unit after he was shot in the stomach.
His mother said she got into an argument with her son about whether he could take an ink drawing of a rose he had done for his late grandmother, she said. The drawing is framed on the wall of her home.
The argument soon escalated to the point where Jackson felt she needed police assistance.
She said she called 911 and told dispatchers that her son had mental issues and was carrying a small knife. She feared her son would hurt himself, not anyone else.
"'We have special officers that are trained to deal with the mentally ill in this type of situation,'" Jackson said dispatchers told her. "Had I known this was going to happen, I would have never called police."
Jackson said her son struggles with mental illness and often leaves her home to sleep on the streets, but said he is an avid artist and reader and isn't violent. According to state criminal records, he was convicted of larceny, vehicle theft and forgery in the 1980s but has no recent arrests.
Jackson said she stayed on the phone with dispatchers. When officers arrived, she hung up and walked from her living room to her garage to head outside.
That's when she heard gunshots.
"I heard four shots before I could even go outside; four shots" she said. Jackson said. "I heard four shots -- boom-boom-boom-boom, very quickly, one right after the other."
Jackson did not see the shooting. She was inside her home when she heard four gunshots. She said it was a "miracle" that her neighbor's camera recorded the incident. Otherwise, "I wouldn't have had a leg to stand on," she said.
Maurice Bunch was watching police respond to the scene from his front porch. His video camera was recording everything. Bunch installed the surveillance camera two years ago after a trailer was stolen from his driveway.
Bunch said he never saw Bennett make any aggressive moves toward officers.
"As you see in the tape, he was in suspended animation," he said. "He was froze like an ice cube. He never moved an inch or even said a word."
He watched as officers shot Bennett and Bennett fell to the ground.
"I just said, 'Oh my God." I walked back into the house you know, back into the house, because I didn't really want them to see me," Bunch said.
In an initial statement to the press, Chief Brown said an investigation into the incident continues:
"We are in the very early stages of conducting a thorough criminal investigation of this incident. Once we complete the criminal investigation we will refer our findings to the Dallas County District Attorney's office. We will be careful to make further comments given the legal procedural due process issues involved with an investigation of this nature. We will then begin the administrative investigation to determine whether our deadly force policy was violated. The involved officer is on administrative leave, and I will be extending the normal leave time indefinitely. We are aware of video taken by citizens of this incident."
Jackson wasn't able to see her son as often as she'd preferred because he's in the ICU at Baylor Medical Center and under arrest. With charges dropped against Bennett, Jackson can visit her son in the hospital.
The officer involved remains on indefinite leave pending a criminal investigation announced after the video was publicized.
Bennett's mother said she is upset and feels her son should not have been shot.
"This is not right," Jackson said. "This is inexcusable. Right is right; wrong is wrong. This is definitely wrong."
"I would definitely like the chief to call me and let me know that this was inexcusable," Jackson said. "That those officers have been fired."
Civil rights leaders have gotten involved in the case to bring attention to officer-involved shootings.
"No one can make me believe in over 40 years only one police officer is going to be indicted," said Civil Rights attorney Daryl Washington. "Something is not right with this and we need to look further into this."
Dallas police are expected to speak more about the investigation on Monday.
NBC 5's Randy McIIwain contributed to this report.