Officer sues NFL for implication shooting of black criminal suspect was because of racism

An Indianapolis police officer has filed a lawsuit against the National Football League over messaging that implies a black man he shot and killed was the result of “systemic racism.”

The suit, which was filed on Monday, cites tweets and video sent and produced by the NFL that were published last year as part of the league’s “Say Their Stories” campaign, which honored, among others, Dreasjon Reed in a December post.

The league declared that Reed was “one of the many individuals being honored by players and coaches this season through the NFL’s helmet decal program.”

But Indianapolis Metro Police Department Officer De’Joure Mercer, who filed his suit in the Southern District Court of Indiana, maintains the league committed a grievous error in suggesting that he killed Reed out of racial motivation.

In the complaint, Mercer’s lawyer, Guy A. Relford, wrote that the NFL’s materials imply that his client “committed occupational misconduct and even criminal acts during the May 6 (e)ncounter with Reed, similar to that which were inflicted upon George Floyd.”

“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,” says the complaint, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This inference, implication, and imputation is false because Mercer committed no such acts.”

Relford referred to his client as a “hero” in a separate statement, FOX 59 reported.

“De’Joure Mercer is a hero. He tracked down a very dangerous criminal wanted by the police, who was a threat to the citizens of Indianapolis,” Relford said.

“He put his life on the line and was nearly killed in that effort. He was completely exonerated after an exhaustive investigation into the death of Mr. Reed,” the attorney added.

“For NFL Enterprises then to suggest he was involved in police or racist misconduct is totally false, defamatory and unacceptable. What happened here has nothing to do with racism,” he said.

“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,” added Relford. “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.”

City police told the Indianapolis Star that Mercer remains a police officer. The paper reported that he is seeking “substantial compensatory damages” as well as a jury trial.

The NFL has yet to comment on the suit, other reports noted.

The incident with Reed took place in May 2020, a few weeks before Floyd died at the hands of then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering Floyd earlier this year. Mercer shot and killed Reed after a vehicle chase that turned into a foot pursuit. A subsequent investigation by the department and a grand jury found no evidence to support charging Mercer with any crimes. Investigators said that during the foot pursuit, Reed fired shots at Mercer, though an attorney for the Reed family denied that.

The grand jury announced in November no charges against Mercer would be filed.

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Jon Dougherty

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