Speedway officer who shot, killed man in February won’t face charges, special prosecutor says

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Scene of the shooting on Feb. 12, 2021

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – A special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against an officer involved in a deadly February shooting in Speedway.

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears requested the special prosecutor in the days after the death of De’Aire Gray on Feb. 12, 2021.

Gray, 28, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to court records. His family said he hadn’t taken his prescribed medication in about five years. Gray, police discovered after the shooting, had also been a suspect in a series of arsons in December 2019. He was deemed incompetent to stand trial, according to court records.

Special Prosecutor Chris Gaal conducted an independent investigation into the shooting with help from Indiana State Police. The probe included body camera footage, video from nearby surveillance cameras, and interviews with witnesses to reconstruct the events.

Officers were dispatched to the 5900 block of W. 25th Street around 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. A resident reported a man in a red car was moving items to and from the vehicle and “using the bathroom on the side of the car” to the apartment manager, saying she “was afraid.” The apartment manager called Speedway Code Enforcement, which then requested that officers respond to a trespasser.

Officer Robby Harris arrived at the apartment complex and located the red car. He and Officer Scott Highland searched for the vehicle’s owner. While speaking to a resident, the officers saw Gray shut the passenger door to the vehicle.

Gray walked toward a chain-link fence; police said he wore a backpack and carried a duffel bag. The officers talked to Gray, who kept moving away from them. The officers noticed he had a GPS ankle monitor. When asked why he was running away, Gray responded, “I’m not running away. I’m getting away from you all.” Shortly after that, he scaled the fence and took off.

Highland chased Gray to the area near West 25th Street and Parkwood Drive. He tried to apprehend him, but Gray resisted, according to court documents. Highland deployed his Taser, which was ineffective. Gray broke away from Highland and continued running.

Other officers arrived at the scene. Harris, who’d gotten into his patrol car to pursue Gray, found Gray and got out of his vehicle. Audio from a body camera notes another officer, Madeline O’Day, shouting several times that Gray had a gun. Harris fired four shots, striking Gray.

After the shooting, Gray can be heard in body camera audio telling officers that his arm was broken. Highland, according to the audio, replied, “Do you think I give a crap about your arm?” Gray then said he was in pain, to which Highland said, “I don’t care. That’s what happens when you pull a gun on the police, dummy.”

In additional body camera footage, Gray told officers he was bleeding. Harris responded, “I know you’re bleeding. You’re going to bleed some more if you don’t show me your hands.”

At one point, Highland told Gray, “I will put one in your dome. Don’t you [expletive] move,” according to the special prosecutor’s report.

In an interview, Harris said he heard O’Day yell about the gun but “needed to visually confirm” that Gray had a firearm. It was dark outside, and Gray was wearing dark clothing, Harris noted. Once Harris observed what appeared to be a gun, he told Gray to drop it. When Gray failed to comply, Harris said he fired four shots to “neutralize the threat.”

Gray, whose injuries were initially described as non-life-threatening, died at Eskenazi Hospital. An autopsy determined he died from multiple gunshots after being shot in the abdomen, right buttock and right upper arm.

The investigation found the firearm was a BB gun that “appears to very closely resemble an actual handgun in shape, color, and size,” according to the special prosecutor’s report. Investigators said Gray’s duffel bag contained a second BB gun—this one painted all red—as well as several boxes of matches, multiple lighters and more than a hundred pages of handwritten notes and journals.

Surveillance video from a business showed Gray digging into his duffel bag and pulling out the BB gun. “Enhanced photo still from the video more clearly show what appears to be a black pistol” in Gray’s hand, according to the prosecutor’s report.

Ultimately the special prosecutor decided that Harris acted in self-defense when he shot Gray during the incident.

“The Special Prosecutor has determined that no criminal charges shall be filed, that the investigation into this matter should now be closed, and that no further action be taken,” according to the report’s conclusion.

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