New East District Commander addresses 1990 shooting

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Kevin Rader/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - In the midst of controversy, Indianapolis Metro Police promoted an officer to command a district. It turns out this officer was the center of a controversy two decades ago.

Commander Scott Haslar is credited with helping curb crime in the east district. But 20 years ago, he shot an unarmed suspect, touching off an outcry in the city.

IMPD East District has a new commander and he's a man of few words.

"I am a uniform guy at heart," said Haslar.

According to Chief Paul Ciesielski, he was promoted in part because of a 30-percent decrease in violent crime in the East District since January.

"Today is an example of a very good department getting better every day," said Ciesielski.

It represents quite a transformation from 20 years ago when then-Officer Scott Haslar was accused of killing an unarmed man. An hour-long chase following a hold-up at a north side fast food restaurant culminated in Haslar shooting Leonard Barnett five times. Eyewitness News was there twenty years ago when Rev. Jesse Jackson consoled Barnett's mother.

"It could have been your son. Could have been your daughter. None of us are safe until all of us are safe," Rev. Jackson said at the time.

Eyewitness News asked Haslar about it Thursday.

"It is something that will always be in the back of my mind. I moved on. I was exonerated by several courts back then, civil trials, FBI investigations and I have gone on to a fairly successful career and that is what I am focusing on now. Where I'm going in the future, not the past," he said.

"He went through an investigative process, was exonerated and has had a tremendous police career every since," said Frank Straub, Indianapolis Public Safety Director.

A different minister named Jackson attended the Thursday afternoon roll call ceremony.

"It is one thing to question one's integrity, but then you have to go forward and prove he had no integrity. Apparently it was proven Commander Haslar does have integrity," said Rev. James Jackson, Fervant Prayer Church.

"I think he was a man of character before that incident and even grown in character since that incident," said Chief Ciesielski.

Haslar did go on to serve as a member of the swat team, received his Master's degree and beginning Thursday will assume the title of commander in the East District.

Haslar replaces former Commander Chad Knecht, who was promoted to IMPD Deputy Chief of Operations a few days ago.

Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce, Deputy Chief Ronald Hicks and Commander John Conley were demoted following the botched investigation of Officer David Bisard, who was involved in a fatal crash with two motorcycles earlier this month.