Officer seen striking 17-year-old student on video charged with battery

Officer Robert Lawson is also accused of making false statements.

September 17, 2019, 6:59 PM

An Indiana police officer who can be seen striking a 17-year-old student in the face on video has been charged in the incident and accused of lying about what went down, officials said.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Robert Lawson was charged Monday with battery after allegedly hitting the teenager “without a legitimate concern for self-defense” during the altercation at Shortridge High School on Aug. 29, according to the office of prosecutor Terry Curry.

Lawson is also facing additional charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, false informing and official misconduct after making false statements in official documentation, the office said in a press release.

In his initial sworn statements, Lawson allegedly said he threw an "open hand palm strike" because he feared the student was going to hit him.

Video evidence contradicts Lawson and shows him striking the teenager with "a closed fist and continuing to use force including a knee strike to the juvenile's abdomen or chest area," according to the prosecutor's office.

Lawson had also allegedly said that the student had "both fists balled up."

The incident began after officers were called to the Indianapolis high school to respond to a large fight in the hallway.

PHOTO: Officer Robert Lawson has been charged with battery following the incident that was caught on camera on Aug. 29, 2019.
Officer Robert Lawson has been charged with battery following the incident that was caught on camera on Aug. 29, 2019.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Dept.

The 17-year-old had allegedly been involved in the fight and was being escorted off the property when his aunt, Danielle Pointer, arrived.

In the video of the incident that circulated online -- and has been shared more than 4,000 times -- Pointer can be heard yelling at the officers.

At one point, Lawson yells, "You wanna go to jail? You wanna go to jail?" prompting Pointer to respond with, "For what? Protecting my child?" according to the video and charging documents.

Shortly after that, the teenager steps up to Lawson and Lawson strikes him in the face.

The officer claimed the teenager had "both fists balled up," but the prosecutor's office said video showed that the boy's left and right hand were open and by his side when he approached the officer.

Lawson also said another officer witnessed the teenager "swing his fist" at Lawson. However, that officer later said in official statements she did not observe that.

Lawson turned himself in Monday. Calls to Pointer and Lawson were not returned.

John Kautzman, Lawson's lawyer, said in a statement to Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV, "We look forward to a full and fair review of ALL the evidence in this case, including the officer's observations, perceptions and training as it relates to the entirety of this encounter."

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said Lawson was placed on suspension without pay following the charges against him. Chief Bryan Roach is recommending he be terminated, according to a statement from the department.

The Indianapolis Public Schools released a statement saying they "are supportive" of the charges and will continue to monitor the situation.

Superintendent Aleesia Johnson put out an emotional statement the day after the incident.

"As a black woman and a mother of black children, it isn't possible to watch the video of the incident that occurred yesterday at Shortridge without immediately thinking about the other incidents in our country that occur between white police officers and black people, especially males," Johnson wrote on Facebook. "Often I am left feeling a number of emotions -- devastation often chief among them."

The teenager who Lawson struck was not taken into custody and no charges were filed against him, officials said.