INDIANAPOLIS — The city’s police chief called Thursday for the firing of a white officer who he said repeatedly struck a 15-year-old biracial boy in the face during an arrest after the teen had been subdued by other officers.
Chief Paul Ciesielski said Officer Jerry Piland needlessly struck Brandon Johnson several times during the May 16 arrest near the boy’s home. Johnson was left with gaping wounds on his swollen face and a black eye.
“It was a difficult decision, but I know it was the right decision to terminate his employment because that certainly serves as an example that we have a zero-tolerance policy,” Ciesielski said at a news conference.
Ciesielski’s recommendation will go to the Civilian Police Merit Board, which ultimately will decide whether to fire Piland.
The teen’s family and black community leaders have called for a federal investigation into whether Johnson’s civil rights were violated. Piland, 36, and the other three officers directly involved in the arrest are white, while Johnson’s mother is black and his father is white.
“I’m grateful to have one bad cop off the streets, but there was a lot of wrongdoing here that day,” Johnson’s mother, Chantay Chandler, said at a news conference Thursday at the family’s home. Family representatives called on the department to fire the four officers directly involved in the arrest, but not a fifth officer who stood on the periphery.
“One token firing is not enough,” said the family’s attorney, Stephen Wagner.
Ciesielski said one of the other officers, Stacy Lettinga, received a reprimand for wrongfully arresting another youth at the scene, and that the three others had been exonerated. None of the five had any prior record of excessive force, and Piland has received several commendations.
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said last week that he was investigating the matter and had not decided whether to bring charges against any of the officers. He said he decided not to charge Johnson because it wasn’t in the best interests of the teen or the community.