LAWRENCE, Kan. – Criminal charges against a former police officer in Kansas who shot a man last year were dismissed Wednesday after a judge ruled the officer meant to use her Taser and mistakenly drew her gun during the confrontation.
Ex-Lawrence officer Brindley Blood, 36, was charged with aggravated battery after she shot 35-year-old Lawrence resident Akira Lewis while he was attacking another officer in May 2018.
Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel ruled that evidence did not show Blood acted recklessly during the confrontation. The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled, the Lawrence Journal World reported .
After the hearing, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said he did not intend to refile the charges but would review the ruling to determine whether an appeal of the dismissal should be filed.
Lewis, who is black, was treated at a hospital after being shot and has said he has permanent injuries. He contends he was racially profiled. Blood and the other officer are both white.
Lewis was charged with battery against a law enforcement officer, interference with law enforcement and driving without proof of insurance, all misdemeanors, and failure to wear a seat belt.
A video of the confrontation shows Blood, who was a rookie police officer, yelling "Taser" before firing. She told investigators that she meant to use her Taser but mistakenly drew her gun and shot Lewis.
Kittel said she did not believe Blood acted recklessly after reviewing the evidence, hearing testimony from Lewis and several officers, and watching the video .
"There is no evidence that the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk," Kittel said. "She meant to use her Taser."
Branson contended that despite "extensive training" on Tasers and firearms, Blood was reckless because she showed "gross deviation" from standards for such situations.
Blood's attorneys, Tom Bath and Michael Riling, argued their client may have made a mistake but she wasn't reckless, particularly given the few seconds she had to act.
The confrontation began when Officer Ian McCann pulled Lewis over for not wearing a seat belt during a scheduled seat belt enforcement campaign. The video shows Lewis becoming belligerent, cursing and refusing to get out of his vehicle or provide identification.
Blood arrived after McCann called for backup. Lewis eventually jumped out of his SUV, and is seen on the video hitting McCann and slamming him to the ground. Blood drew her gun, stood over the two men, yelled "Taser-Taser-Taser" and fired once.
After Lewis cried out in pain, Blood can be heard on the video saying, "Oh, (expletive), I shot him."
Lewis' attorney, Shaye Downing, has said that the officers "initiated physical contact and escalated a situation that could have been easily de-escalated by any number of interventions."
Blood, who graduated from the police academy just six months before the shooting, resigned from the department in late January.
Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com