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IMPD officer, department facing lawsuit in 2016 fatal shooting

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, city of Indianapolis and an IMPD officer are named in a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a 2016 fatal police shooting.

The lawsuit, filed by the widow of 44-year-old Kevin Hicks, claims IMPD Officer Robert Carmichael violated Hicks’ civil rights and used excessive force during the April 2016 encounter in which Hicks was killed.

Hicks’ widow, Heather Hicks, called 911 on April 5, 2016, and asked police to remove her husband from the car. She said Hicks had struck her. Their child was in the car at the time.

Carmichael responded to the scene outside a gas station at East 10th and Rural streets. A physical altercation ensued, part of which was caught on camera. However, the men’s momentum took them out of range of the camera, which did not capture the shooting itself.

Surveillance video showed Kevin Hicks, Heather Hicks and Carmichael talking outside a vehicle. Shortly after that, punches were thrown, and the two went down on the ground. That’s when Carmichael fired his gun, killing Hicks during the struggle. IMPD said Carmichael tried to deploy his Taser but couldn't because it was knocked out of his hand. Hicks was unarmed.

IMPD officials, citing witness accounts, said Hicks may have tried to get control of Carmichael’s gun during the scuffle. Hicks was pronounced dead at the scene; Carmichael was treated for a bite to the hand and a possible concussion.

In June 2017—more than a year later—the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Carmichael in connection with the shooting. The prosecutor’s office said the decision was based on witness accounts, video footage and other evidence. The case didn’t go to a grand jury.

The lawsuit filed by Hicks’ widow alleges that Kevin Hicks “withdrew from the physical altercation and surrendered to Office Carmichael” before the shooting. It further claims that Carmichael “then intentionally shot Kevin Hicks in the head/face” and that Hicks was lying on the ground when it happened.

“Officer Carmichael used excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary force in attempting to arrest and/or otherwise detain Kevin Hicks,” the lawsuit said, adding that Carmichael shot Hicks “unlawfully and without legal cause.”

The lawsuit accuses IMPD of making several miscues, including failing to properly train officers on the use of force and failing to discipline officers who improperly use such force. The suit claims IMPD didn’t follow its own internal policies and failed to send the case to a firearms review board.

In February, a review of IMPD records showed the department didn’t convene a firearms review board in 19 of 44 police-action shootings from 2015 through 2017. Kevin Hicks’ shooting was among the cases that weren’t reviewed.

Carmichael began working for IMPD in 2010. He left the department in November 2017 on medical retirement, according to the IndyStar.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as administrative costs and legal fees.

IMPD also faces civil suits in a pair of fatal police-action shootings: the 2015 shooting death of Andre Green and the 2017 shooting death of Aaron Bailey.