A former Dallas cop was sentenced to two years probation after shooting a mentally ill man. The man, 52-year-old Bobby Bennett, survived and sued the city. Bennett received a $1.6 million settlement from the shooting.
The officer, 34-year-old Carden Spencer, was charged with aggravated assault by a public servant in the shooting. Spencer accepted a plea agreement to a lesser charge of attempted deadly conduct. The charge is considered a state jail felony. A condition of the plea agreement requires Spencer to turn in his Texas peace officer license according to court records.
Spencer was responding to a domestic call on October 14, 2013 when he shot mentally ill Bobby Bennett. Bennett’s mother called police for assistance with her son who was acting erratically. When police arrived, Bennett was sitting in an office chair in a cul-de-sac of his Rylie neighborhood. According to Spencer, Bennett was brandishing a knife and stepped towards officers raising the knife menacingly.
A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the encounter refuting Spencer’s claims. According to the footage, Bennett never took a step forward. In fact Bennett never moved threateningly towards officers at all.
The Dallas Observer reported:
Bennett was sitting in a chair when officers arrived. Spencer, the video shows, opens fire when Bennett stands up, hitting him four times in the stomach.
Had it not been for the footage from the neighbor’s surveillance camera, the officer’s accounts of the story would have been the official narrative of accounts. The presence of the camera fueled perceptions that police officers lie to cover each other’s asses further decrying the need to tear down the Blue Wall of Silence.
The Dallas Police Department fired Spencer after the release of the surveillance footage. Bennett was later indicted on the felony criminal charge of aggravated assault by a public servant.
The trial was scheduled for November but Spencer pleaded guilty this week. The plea agreement allows Spencer and the Dallas Police Department to avoid the humiliation and embarrassment the media circus would bring.
According to the Dallas Morning News:
Spencer is the second ex-cop to plead to a lesser charge in exchange for probation this year. Former Garland cop Patrick Tuter received nine months’ probation for killing an unarmed man after a police chase five years ago. He was charged with a felony but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Another condition of the former Dallas cop’s plea agreement is that the felony charge will remain on his record however it won’t be listed as a conviction. Spencer will also be placed under community supervision.
Prior to Spencer, the last time a Dallas officer faced charges for an on-duty shooting was 44 years ago.