Officer suspended, demoting for pushing wheelchair-bound suspect
A Lafayette police officer is on suspension for pushing a suspect out of his wheelchair.
Video released by the Lafayette Police Department shows a violent altercation between Lt. Tom Davidson and 25-year-old Nicholas Kincade at a Lafayette charter school. Officers were called to the school last October after Kincade allegedly said he had a .45-caliber handgun.
Police on the scene determined Kincade, who is paraplegic, did not have a gun, but did have a pocketknife. He was asked to leave school property, but as he did so, he ran over Davidson's leg. That's when the officer shoved Kincade to the ground.
The video captured the exchange.
"Whoa. What the (expletive)," Kincade said.
"You do not drive over me, Nick," said Davidson.
"Now you're going to jail," said another officer.
"I didn't even see you," Kincade said.
"Oh my god. Right," Davidson said.
"Are you (expletive) kidding me?" Kincade replied.
Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly said Davidson had four seconds to get out of the way of Kincade's moving wheelchair, but he did not move. That, he said, violates department rules on use of force and "common sense."
The police chief and mayor of Lafayette both wanted Davidson fired, but the Police Civil Service Commission opted for a demotion and suspension for unbecoming conduct.
"Unconscionable. You can't take a vulnerable person and throw them out of their wheelchair. Looking at the tape, it looked like he stood way too close to the individual. These aren't precise tools that you're working with," said John Dickerson with the Arc of Indiana. "It's that response to him being accidentally run over by the wheelchair that really needs to be addressed."
The Arc of Indiana is an advocacy group that works with disabled individuals. Dickerson says what is key in the Lafayette situation is that police learn from the incident and that it doesn't happen again.
Eyewitness News could not reach Kincade for comment. We wanted to ask if he thought the officer was just protecting himself.
"That's uncalled for," said Joe Sanchez, a friend of Kincade's, as he watched the video. "That's not necessary. There's nothing he can really do."
Sanchez, who also uses a wheelchair, thinks his friend just made a mistake.
"People have been too close to me," he said. "I move a little bit and I have run over their feet. I didn't mean to do it."
He says it's hard to judge distance in a wheelchair.
But he thinks the officer's punishment was appropriate.
"I don't think he should have been fired. What they did to him is fair. He'll learn from that," Sanchez said.
Davidson was demoted to officer and will serve a 30-day unpaid suspension. The demotion comes with a $7,000 cut in salary for the former lieutenant.