FBI probes shooting as grand jury draws near
The FBI is investigating the Jan. 20 shooting of a man who fled officers on Interstate 64 in Harrison County, and Prosecutor Dennis Byrd plans to convene a grand jury near the end of August to investigate whether the force used by officers was justified.
Trent Marion, 36, Louisville, suffered injuries to his right eye and both wrists when officers opened fire after Marion encountered a roadblock and entered the Interstate 64 median at the 103-mile marker.
Officers fired two volleys of shots. The vehicle was in motion each time a volley was fired, and it subsequently stopped, according to the Indiana State Police, which investigated the shooting.
The family disagrees with the ISP analysis, saying Marion, who was unarmed, had stopped and raised both hands before being shot.
‘The FBI is responsible for investigating potential violations of deprivation of rights under color of law,’ said Drew Northern, supervisory special agent with the bureau’s Indianapolis office.
He said ‘color of law’ refers to those with authority granted by federal, state or local government. Last year, more than 1,124 cases, or 66.7 percent of all civil rights’ cases, were color-of-law cases.
News media reports, Northern said, provided information which prompted the FBI to investigate.
When asked for a time frame, he said color-of-law and civil rights’ investigations are given high priority by the bureau. The investigatory process will be not unlike a state or local investigation, taking statements, observing photographs and physical evidence, reviewing police and medical reports, etc.
The day of the shooting, Marion had been pursued from Louisville where he was first confronted by police after an off-duty officer said he witnessed Marion stuffing meat in a diaper bag in a Portland neighborhood Kroger.
But a dispatcher mistakenly communicated that Marion was being sought for armed robbery, leading officers in Harrison County to believe the fleeing suspect was in possession of a firearm.
At the time the shots were fired, three of the Explorer’s tires had long since been deflated by spike strips, but ruts at the scene indicated the vehicle remained mobile and maneuverable in the median.
Five officers fired during the shooting, including three officers with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., Bruce LaHue, Kevin Taylor and Roy Wiseman, and two with the Corydon Police Dept., James Sadler and Todd Stinson.
LaHue tendered his resignation yesterday morning citing reasons unrelated to the shooting (see story top left).
Marion is being held in Louisville on charges including robbery and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $150,000.
Byrd said his first order of business would be filing charges in Harrison County and having arrest warrants issued for Marion. Secondly, he said, he will call a grand jury to review ‘some of the actions of the police officers and make a decision based on the law.’
Byrd said the grand jury investigation was delayed by the Hobert Pitman murder trial, and a long delay until the John Michael Naylor murder trial created a window during which to convene the grand jury.
The FBI’s findings will go to the Civil Rights unit of the Justice Dept. where the decision will be made as to whether or not charges should be filed.
Though he offered to share information with the FBI, Byrd said, none has been requested from him.
Sheriff Mike Deatrick said he doesn’t know what, specifically, spurred the FBI’s involvement.
‘I was down here one day and (an agent) asked if we had done an internal investigation. I told him no. He asked why. I told him that when we turned it over to the ISP, we told them we would cooperate fully and the same thing with the grand jury,’ Deatrick said.
‘He told me not even to be concerned about it at all. That it’s just one of those things that needed to be investigated,’ he said.
In a statement announcing in April that he would remain on the case despite the Rev. Louis Coleman’s calls for Byrd to recuse himself, the prosecutor said, ‘A review of the facts provides that at the very least a vast majority of the actions of law enforcement were justified.’
Following the shooting, Corydon town manager Fred Cammack asked Police Chief Jim Kendall to reiterate to his force the town policy that requires marshals remain within town limits unless a life is in danger and no one else is available to respond.
‘We hire people to police inside city limits,’ Cammack said.
Regarding his officers, Sheriff Deatrick said during an interview Monday, ‘We done what the law required us to do. If (Marion) got up on that interstate and hit traffic going the wrong way, it falls back on us because we didn’t stop him. And always remember, he come to us. We didn’t go to him.’
Deatrick welcomed the investigation, saying, ‘We want this behind us and not in front of us.’
Reports from ISP investigators do not indicate which officers shot Marion, Byrd said, however, there are volumes of medical records awaiting review. Though no bullet fragments were recovered as evidence, three different types of ammunition were used.
‘Each particular type of ammunition would make its own distinct type of injury, and those medical records might indicate the opinion of a doctor as to what type of ammunition or firearm made that injury,’ Byrd said.
An account released by Byrd’s office of Marion’s activities the day of the shooting said at the Louisville Kroger where he was first confronted, ‘Marion made his way out of the store and into the parking lot where he entered a Ford Explorer by punching and pushing officers and by swinging (his) infant. Trent Marion started the vehicle and fled, striking a car in the parking lot, almost striking officers and leaving the infant,’ the statement said.
Once on the interstate, ‘Marion repeatedly drove the Explorer at unsafe speeds, in and out of traffic, on and off the road, swerved at patrol cars and officers, endangering everyone involved, including innocent citizens traveling on Interstate 64,’ the statement read.