An Indianapolis police officer sued the National Football League for defamation over material it posted in relation to a shooting incident the officer was involved in.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer De’Joure Mercer fatally shot Dreasjon Reed in a pursuit last year and was later cleared of any wrongdoing, according to WXIN-TV.
In a series of posts, the NFL associated Reed with other civil rights figures killed by the police.
Say His Name: Dreasjon Reed
Dreasjon is one of the many individuals being honored by players and coaches this season through the NFL’s helmet decal program.#SayTheirStories: https://t.co/vwi75WmNxr pic.twitter.com/wWaasw6LBp
— NFL (@NFL) December 16, 2020
The #SayTheirStories campaign is intended to “honor victims of systemic racism, victims of police misconduct, and social justice heroes,” according to the NFL.
“The (v)ideo gives rise to the inference, implication, and imputation that Mercer committed occupational misconduct and even criminal acts during the May 6 (e)ncounter with Reed, similar to that which were inflicted upon George Floyd,” Mercer’s lawyer wrote in the complaint.
“This inference, implication, and imputation is false because Mercer committed no such acts.”
A grand jury ruled last November that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mercer in relation to Reed’s death, according to WTHR-TV.
Indiana State Police found that Mercer’s shooting of Reed was within the police department’s use of force policies and did not violate state law.
“For NFL Enterprises then to suggest he was involved in police or racist misconduct is totally false, defamatory and unacceptable,” Mercer’s attorney Guy Relford said in a statement, WXIN reported.
“What happened here has nothing to do with racism.”
WTHR reported that the investigation of the incident found that Mercer first deployed his stun gun after a foot pursuit of Reed and knocked the suspect to the ground.
Reed then fired two shots at the police officer before Mercer returned fire, according to Mercer’s lawsuit.
The NFL posts, according to the suit, were defamatory because they accused Mercer of misconduct, for which he was exonerated.
The suit says that Mercer’s friends and family were aware of the campaign and asked him about the accusations, causing “severe emotional distress” and damage to his reputation.
“While we support NFL Enterprises’ efforts to address social justice issues, Officer Mercer is taking a stand for the many, many good cops on duty across America,” Relford continued in his statement.
“He is standing up for his friends and colleagues and sending a message that before you accuse a decorated police officer of misconduct in a national campaign, you had better get your facts straight.”
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