Indianapolis Cop Charged with Punching Teen in the Face

An Indianapolis police officer is facing criminal charges after he was caught on video punching a 17-year-old high school student in the face. Authorities said Officer Robert Lawson subsequently lied about the encounter in police reports.

The veteran police officer was charged with obstruction of justice, perjury, and official misconduct, all Level 6 felonies. Court records show Lawson was also charged with misdemeanor battery (Class A) and misdemeanor false informing (Class B), WPXI reported.

Lawson is accused of making false statements under oath or affirmation in a probable cause affidavit he submitted to support his arrest of the 17-year-old male student. Prosecutors said the teen was not taken into custody and no charges were filed against him.

The officer allegedly wrote in the police report on August 29 that he used an open hand palm strike because he was afraid the 17-year-old was going to hit him. He allegedly wrote that the palm strike was successful and officers were able to handcuff the suspect.

However, video footage appears to show Lawson striking the teen with a closed fist and continuing to use force on him. Lawson also reportedly used his knee to strike the teen’s abdomen or chest area, prosecutors said.

In the police report, Lawson also claimed that another officer present, identified as Sgt. Marzetta Jenkins, said she saw the 17-year-old swing his fist at Lawson just before Lawson struck him with a palm strike. In an interview with investigators, Jenkins denied saying she saw the 17-year-old boy swing his fist at Lawson.

“We hope this sends a message to the community that we take such allegations very seriously and are prepared to hold individuals accountable for their actions, regardless of their position,” Marion County Chief Trial Deputy Ryan Mears said in a statement.

The incident occurred when officers were called to Shortridge High School in response to a large hallway fight between some male students. Prosecutors said that the 17-year-old was being escorted off the school’s property into the custody of his aunt, Danielle Pointer, when the confrontation between the aunt, the teen, and Lawson occurred.

The allegations against Lawson surfaced after a 27-second video of the confrontation went viral on social media, WPXI reported. Pointer can be heard yelling at the officers in the video, which has been shared more than 4,000 times.

During the video, Lawson yells at Pointer, “You wanna go to jail? You wanna go to jail?” Pointer responded, “For what? Protecting my child?”

Seconds later, the teen approached Lawson and tells him to “Hey, you gotta chill out bro.” Lawson, who appears to tell the teen to “shut the f— up,” then strikes the boy in the face.

Following the altercation, a female officer commands the person filming to “back up.” The person responded: “He just swung on my little cousin!”

The day after the incident, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson released a statement that said the school district was gathering information.

“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 her Facebook page. “Often, I am left feeling a number of emotions — devastation often chief among them.” Johnson said the school district prioritizes racial equity. She noted as school officials waited for the outcome of the investigation, “We can’t ignore how the dynamics of race in both our city and our country consistently undergird these situations and leave our community feeling angry, hurt, and, in some cases, hopeless.”

Lawson was suspended without pay after the charges were filed against him, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said. Chief Bryan Roach has recommended firing Lawson, according to a department statement given to ABC News.

The 43-year-old turned himself in on September 16 after charges were filed.

In a statement, Lawson’s attorney John Kautzman told 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.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.