Three Shootings by Evansville Police in Six Months

On February 23, 2018, Evansville Police Department officer Samuel SeDoris shot and killed 59-year-old Douglas Kemp during a traffic stop. Kemp was the 182nd person killed by police in the U.S. in 2018, and the second person killed by the EPD in 6 months.

Less than a month before, on January 18, 2018, EPD officer Jackie Smith fired two shots at Vincent Bufkin while responding to a “refusal to leave” call; Bufkin survived a gunshot wound to his shoulder and faces several charges related to the encounter.

Six months ago, on August 29, 2017, EPD officer Kenny Dutschke and a yet-to-be-named federal security officer fatally shot 55-year-old Ricky Ard in front of the Federal Building in downtown Evansville.

Picture
Body camera from officer Jesse Montank shows Douglas Kemp in his car before being fatally shot by officer Samuel SeDoris on Feburary 23, 2018. SeDoris alleges that Kemp reached for a weapon–an airsoft BB gun–during the interaction. (image: screenshot)

 

Picture
EPD officer Jackie Smith’s body camera from January 15, 2018 shows Vincent Bufkin in the kitchen of an acquaintance’s home before she shot him. Officers allege that Bufkin tried to take officer Herbert Adams’ weapon. (image: screenshot)

 

Picture
Surveillance footage from the Winfield K. Denton Federal Building shows officer Kenny Dutchke running up to Ricky Ard from behind and shooting him first with a Taser and then fatally with a handgun on August 29, 2017. (image: screenshot)

Police Impunity

After officer Jackie Smith shot Vincent Bufkin in January, police spokesperson Sergeant Jason Cullum explained that all police shootings in Evansville are investigated internally “because of the resources we have available within the Evansville Police Department.” The EPD holds the power to decide whether or not to seek additional external investigations. “If we were to uncover something that we were to ever feel, uh, deserved an outside look, we– we would do that,” said Cullum, indicating the EPD ultimately decides for itself if they are acting appropriately and do not have any routine or automatic external oversight.

Unlike most crimes that are under investigation, in which the name of the alleged perpetrator is publicly shared through the EPD’s daily crime bulletin, the names of officers in these shootings are routinely omitted from this public record, only to be released once the EPD has had time to review surveillance and body camera footage and set their story straight. While most fatal and nonfatal known shooters would be immediately arrested and charged with a variety of crimes to see what sticks in court, EPD officers simply stay home from work for a few days and enjoy “innocence until proven guilty,” an elusive concept for most non-police offenders.

Picture
Entry from the EPD crime bulletin on February 23, 2018 indicates an “officer involved shooting,” as if the reporting officer, J.L. Smith, did not know that the officer was “involved” as the shooter. The entry does not include the name of the officer who shot and killed Douglas Kemp and even uses the gender-neutral pronoun “their,” possibly to further obscure the officer’s identity. The name of the shooting officer, Samuel SeDoris, was released one week later. (image: http://www.evansvillepolice.com)
​In addition to the privileged anonymity police reserve for themselves and the impunity resulting from the unlikelihood that the police department would find itself at fault, the laws relating to police violence and the prosecutor’s interpretation of them make it nearly impossible for police to be prosecuted. In fact, in 2016 after three EPD officers were “caught beating a handcuffed man, then lying about it,” Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nicholas Hermann stated regarding his decision to not prosecute for perjury that “if we start going after police officers because there is a line in a probable cause affidavit that contradicts what we see in the video, quite frankly, we wouldn’t have any more Evansville police officers.” When explaining his decision not to prosecute for battery charges, Hermann said that if a “normal person”–an off-duty officer or another individual–were to have struck someone with their elbow as officer Henderson did, “yes, we would have pressed charges.” Like the cases from the past six months (one of which is still under investigation), no charges were pursued against the three officers in the 2016 case. 

Not only are criminal charges often not filed, but officers also often keep their jobs after they abuse or kill someone–even when the Chief of Police advocates termination. Upon reviewing the above-mentioned case, Evansville Chief of Police Billy Bolin recommended firing officers Nick Henderson, Mark DeCamps and Marcus Craig–who attacked a handcuffed Mark Healy and fabricated an alternative story about it–and recommended demoting Sergeant Kyle Kassel, who approved the officers’ false report of the attack. However, all four officers kept their jobs and rankings when the police merit commission voted for such. Officers even received several weeks of paid leave during the process. Likewise, as of yet, none of the officers who have unnecessarily fired their guns at people and fatally or non-fatally wounded them in the past six months have lost their jobs.

The Problem of Policing

​Unfortunately, police abuse and violence would not end if these officers–Samuel SeDoris, Kenny Dutschke, Jackie Smith, Nick Henderson, Mark DeCamps, Marcus Craig, and the unnamed federal security guard who killed Ricky Ard–were sitting in prison instead of patrolling the streets of Evansville. The problem is not a few “bad apples” or a lack of training; as long as policing exists–along with the laws, courts, and politicians that attempt to legitimize it–police violence and impunity will also exist.

The EPD, like police departments everywhere, has a history of violence, racism and cover-ups. Even with body camera and surveillance footage in the hands of the press and populace, police are able to create a narrative–again, with an arsenal of laws and courts to back it up–to argue that their acts of violence are “right” and necessary, and unfortunately, many people believe them.

Encouragingly, seeking solutions through the government’s “justice” system is only one strategy; thousands of other possibilities exist for dismantling the systems that legitimize police and creating something different.


Full videos from which the above screenshots were taken can be found at the following links:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s