Lawrence, KS – A district court judge dismissed criminal charges pending against a former Lawrence police officer who shot and injured a convicted felon as he was attacking one of her fellow officers.
Lawrence Police Officer Brindley Blood, 36, was charged with felony aggravated battery amid accusations that she acted recklessly when she wounded the suspect in May of 2018.
She later said she meant to use her Taser to subdue the combative man, not her duty weapon, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
On Wednesday, Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel determined that the evidence did not indicate that Officer Blood acted recklessly during the altercation, WDAF reported.
“To consciously disregard something, one must be aware of it,” Kittel said, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. “There is no evidence that the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk … She meant to use her Taser.”
Kittel said that after watching dashcam footage of the incident and reviewing the additional evidence presented, she believed that the now-former officer intended to draw her Taser, but grabbed her duty weapon by mistake.
Kittel dismissed the criminal case without prejudice, and District Attorney Charles Branson said he does not plan to file alternate charges against Blood, The Kansas City Star reported.
Branson said that his office is reviewing the case in order to determine whether or not an appeal of the dismissal will be filed.
“We think the judge’s decision was right,” Blood’s attorney, Tom Bath, told the Lawrence Journal-World. “Brindley wants to get this behind her and move on with her life.”
The incident occurred at approximately 5:15 p.m. on May 29, 2018, when Lawrence Police Officer Ian McCann initiated a traffic stop on 35-year-old Akira Lewis for failing to wear a seatbelt, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
Lewis pulled over in the 100-block of West Sixth Street, and Officer McCann approached his vehicle to discuss the reason for the stop, dashcam footage showed.
But as soon as he told Lewis that he pulled him over for not wearing his seatbelt, Lewis stomped on the accelerator and the SUV lurched forward several feet.
Officer McCann jumped out of the way of the vehicle, and told Lewis to stop.
“Hey man – stop!” the officer said.
“What?” Lewis retorted indignantly as he brought the SUV to a stop. “I’m movin’, my family homeless, I’m tryin’ to go to f--king work at six, and you’re gonna stop me for a f--king seatbelt?”
Officer McCann calmly confirmed the reason for the stop, at which point Lewis demanded to speak with a supervisor.
“This is literally going to take only four minutes,” the officer assured him.
But Lewis continued to argue about being pulled over for a seatbelt violation, cursed at Officer McCann, and repeatedly demanded that the officer contact his “motherf--kin' supervisor,” the video showed.
“Here’s the deal,” the officer said. “This is a simple traffic violation… We’re gonna take care of our business and I’m gonna get you on down the road.”
“If you’d like to make a complaint after that, you’re more than welcome to do so,” Officer McCann continued. “But I’m not gonna stand out here and have court with you and have an argument with you on the side of the road.”
He then asked Lewis to hand over his insurance and driver’s license information.
But instead of complying, Lewis accused Officer McCann of letting white drivers pass by, and claimed he was targeting him because he is black, the video showed.
“Get the f--k out my face,” Lewis yelled at him. “I’m already hot, I’m pissed off.”
Officer McCann noted that Lewis was making a bigger deal out of the traffic stop than necessary, but Lewis insisted that the officer was picking on him.
The officer finally warned Lewis that if his behavior continued, he was going to be placed under arrest.
“You wanna go to jail for a seatbelt violation? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!” Officer McCann told him.
Lewis assured the officer that he’d been taken to jail for a seatbelt violation in the past.
The officer gave him several more opportunities to comply, but Lewis remained obstinate.
When Officer Blood arrived at the scene, Officer McCann opened the driver’s side door and attempted to remove Lewis from the SUV.
Officer Blood tried to assist him by reaching into the passenger side of Lewis’ vehicle, but they were unable to budge him.
Officer McCann again asked him calmly to step out, at which point Lewis suddenly bolted out of the vehicle and attacked the officer, dashcam footage showed.
The irate suspect grabbed onto the officer and slammed him onto the ground in front of oncoming traffic, then punched him in the head.
Officer Blood rushed over to the melee.
“Taser! Taser! Taser!” she announced, just before she shot Lewis in the back with her duty weapon.
Lewis immediately stopped fighting and began yelling in pain.
“S--t – I shot him!” Officer Blood said, holstering her weapon.
Additional officers pulled up at the scene, and helped place Lewis in handcuffs.
Lewis was transported to a local hospital in stable condition. He was ultimately treated and released.
Officer Blood, who had been with the Lawrence Police Department for about two months prior to the altercation, resigned from her position on Jan. 28, according to the Kansas City Star.
Investigators later discovered that Lewis had three outstanding warrants at the time of the incident. He was also previously convicted of felony aggravated battery in Douglas County, after he struck a man with a baseball bat in 2016, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
He was sentenced to probation for that offense.
Lewis has been charged with misdemeanor offenses of driving without proof of insurance, interference with law enforcement, failing to wear a seatbelt, and battery against a law enforcement officer.
He was released from jail on a $2,000 personal recognizance bond, and is due back in court in June.
Lewis’ attorney, Shaye Downing, said that the officers escalated the situation, and claimed that it “could have been easily de-escalated by any number of interventions,” the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
“Officer Blood made no other attempt to intervene in the altercation and immediately resorted to lethal force against an unarmed man,” she said.
Downing alleged that Officer Blood acted recklessly and negligently when she mistakenly fired her duty weapon instead of her Taser, and claimed that Lewis suffered “permanent injuries” as a result.
“It is unfathomable, or at least should be unfathomable to us all that an officer of the community, trained extensively to protect its citizens would be held to a lower standard,” the attorney said. “Officer Blood’s use of her firearm when the circumstances call for her to use her Taser by her own admission was not only negligent but reckless.”
You can watch dashcam footage of the officers’ encounter with Lewis in the video below. WARNING - Graphic Content: