The Indianapolis Police Officer who shot and killed 21-year-old Dreajson Reed is suing the National Football League [NFL] for defamation after it had associated Reed with other figures unjustly killed by police officers.
A video created by the NFL highlighted Reed and 86 others as a part of their “Inspire Change: Say Their Stories” campaign, telling the stories of the 87 people in order to “honor victims of systemic racism, victims of police misconduct, and social justice heroes.”
IMPD officer De’Joure Mercer filed a lawsuit against the NFL on Monday in the federal Southern District of Indiana Court. Mercer’s lawyer, Guy Relford, wrote in the complaint, “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.”
The complaint added: “This inference, implication, and imputation is false because Mercer committed no such acts.”
On May 6, 2020, officers began a high-speed chase upon noticing Reed driving recklessly on Interstate 65 in Indianapolis. Reed reportedly filmed the pursuit on his Facebook live, and soon the car chase became an on-foot pursuit.
Lt. Jeff Hearon, in a news conference, said Mercer was following Reed, and when he saw Reed reach for his waist, Mercer tased him and he fell. Gunshots were then fired, and Hearon stated he did not know who shot first but confirmed that officer Mercer fired 13 shots.
Hearon said Reed appeared to have been shot in the left shoulder area, in the leg, in the head, and in the back of the neck.
WRTV spoke with Reed’s sister, Jazmine Reed, who said her brother was speaking to her during the Facebook live video. Jazmine Reed told the station, “he was like ‘Sis I’m sorry.’ And I’m like ‘Brother what are you doing? We can’t think for them.’”
Reed’s family filed a lawsuit against IMPD and the city of Indianapolis, and a grand jury was called to decide whether to indict Mercer. On Nov. 10, 2020, the grand jury decided there was not enough probable cause to indict Mercer.
The lawsuit against the NFL stated that social media posts from the NFL were diminishing Mercer’s standing in the community and making people question his suitability as a police officer.
“Even if Mercer is deemed a public figure, subject to establishing the ‘actual malice’ standard of fault, the NFLE acted with actual malice,” the lawsuit read. “It either knew the statements it was publishing about Mercer were false, or acted with reckless disregard to the statements’ truth or falsity.”
Mercer’s attorney also released a statement, saying, “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. He put his life on the line and was nearly killed in that effort.”
He 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.
“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. 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.”
Newsweek reached out to the NFL but did not hear back in time for publication.
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