INDIANAPOLIS — An IMPD officer who fatally shot a man after a pursuit last year and was later cleared of any wrongdoing is suing the NFL for defamation.
Ofc. De'Joure Mercer said in the federal lawsuit filed Monday that NFL Entertainment's "Say Their Stories" video caused him to suffer "tortious injury" in Indianapolis. The video, which was part of the NFL's "Inspire Change" campaign, included Dreasjon Reed, who led police on a high-speed chase on the northwest side of Indianapolis on May 6, 2020, before he was shot and killed by Mercer after a foot pursuit.
A grand jury determined last November there was insufficient evidence to hand down an indictment against Mercer for homicide or other crimes in Reed's death. Indiana State Police conducted the investigation into the shooting, which found that Mercer's shooting of Reed was within IMPD's use of force policies and did not violate state law.
Mercer's lawsuit references a portion of the NFL's video that describes the "Inspire Change" campaign as "a mission to go beyond [the victims'] names to dig deeper, to reveal who they really were, and why they are no longer with us." The suit says a photo of Reed is shown over the last part of the sentence.
"The Video gives rise to the inference, implication, and imputation that Mercer committed occupational misconduct and even criminal acts during the May 6 Encounter with Reed, similar to that which were inflicted upon George Floyd. This inference, implication, and imputation is false because Mercer committed no such acts. Similarly, the Video accuses Mercer of committing acts amounting to 'social injustice,' which is unequivocally and demonstrably false," the lawsuit reads.
According to the ISP investigation, Mercer first deployed his stun gun, knocking Reed to the ground after a foot pursuit that started at the intersection of West 62nd Street and North Michigan Road. A reconstruction of the scene showed that Reed fired two shots, though it was unable to determine who fired first. Mercer's lawsuit filed Monday said Reed fired twice as he fell to the ground and the officer returned fire, killing the suspect. The reconstruction showed that Reed was facing Mercer when he was shot.
The investigation also determined the gun Reed fired had been involved in two drive-by shootings in Indianapolis. The gun had been stolen from a pawn shop in Texas.
Mercer's suit continues to say Mercer's friends, family and other acquaintances were aware of the NFL's campaign and "several of Mercer's friends asked him about the accusations made in the NFL's Publications." The suit said the publications, which also included a photo slideshow and social media postings about Reed, were defamatory against the officer, and accused Mercer of conducting misconduct, which was determined to not be true by the ISP investigation and the grand jury.
The lawsuit also says Mercer received threats over the phone and on social media after the May 6 incident and later received threats that specifically referenced the NFL's campaign.
In conclusion, the lawsuit stated that in addition to "severe emotional distress and personal physical injury," he also suffered damage to his reputation, all of which will cause him to "suffer millions of dollars of damages and financial losses throughout the course of his life."
The law firm representing Reed's family issued a response to the lawsuit on Tuesday:
We have reviewed with dismay the 32-page suit filed by Officer De'Joure Mercer against the NFL. The grand jury deciding not to move forward with criminal charges does not mean that Officer Mercer was not responsible for Dreasjon's death. In fact, it only confirmed what we all already knew, that the grand jury system often favors the police.
We are sure that the NFL is more than capable of defending themselves. We are, however, more concerned that Dreasjon is not here to defend himself against the version of events as state in this lawsuit. Officer Mercer is currently being sued in federal court, but that suit will not bring the justice that Dreasjon deserves. This is exactly why we need the FBI to intervene and exactly why we have contacted the Department of Justice to reopen the investigation into Dreasjon's death.