Highland Park officers won't be charged for fatal shooting - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Highland Park officers won't be charged for fatal shooting

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Highland Park's police officers will not face criminal charges for fatally shooting a suspect last June.

A Dallas County grand jury returned the "no bill" decision Thursday.

On June 4, 2013, officers went after 32-year-old David Hartman after police said they got a phone call from a woman who thought a man on a green motorcycle was following her.

Officers spotted a similar motorcycle in a parking lot near Mockingbird Lane and Airline Road. After confirming it was stolen, police took the driver into custody.

A witness said police put Hartman in a headlock and took him to the ground, where he was handcuffed and placed in a police SUV.

Police said the suspect produced a gun and shot the window out of the SUV. That's when the two unnamed officers returned fire.

The medical examiner confirmed Hartman was shot two times in the back and once in the leg. The autopsy report also showed he had methamphetamines in his system.

The fatal shooting was the first for Highland Park's police force. It prompted an official letter from town leaders to residents.

The letter was blunt about the threat police felt Hartman posed. He did have a criminal history.

"There is absolutely no doubt in our mind that this individual was in our community to commit a violent crime, and that he would have done so had he not been apprehended," it states.

Neither the letter nor police had addressed how Hartman escaped custody or how he had a firearm on him, but Thursday, the department released all of its dash camera video that was part of the evidence in the case.

In it, it's visible from the beginning when officers pulled Hartman felon over, he fought with them. They had to wrestle Hartman off the motorcycle.

But when getting him cuffed and searching for weapons, they miss a small caliber handgun.

While Hartman's left alone in the back of the police SUV, he slips his handcuffs under his legs and in front of him.

Still wiping pepper spray from his eyes from the takedown, he reaches his left hand into his pants and pulls out a small caliber handgun, slides across the back seat and shoots out the corner of the window,  then kicks out the rest of the glass.

Police admit that missing that gun was a big mistake.

"We've always included search procedures for persons in custody as part of our in-service training, and it's also part of basic academy training, and while it's rare, weapons do get missed in searches" said Highland Park Police Chief Chris Vinson.

Police react when they hear Hartman's gunshot.

They come running as he's crawling out the window, trying to make a run for it with his cuffed hands holding the gun.

"As he exited the vehicle, the officers approached from the front and the rear of the patrol car," said Vinson. "Mr. Hartman turned to the right and brought the weapon to bear toward the officer approaching from the front of the patrol car. At that time both officers fired."

Hartman's family has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming his constitutional rights were violated.

It alleges he "posed no risk to the officers" because he either "was unarmed, and did not have any weapon or dangerous device readily at hand" or "had no plans to do anything other than flee with a firearm; he was not pointing it at or near anyone."

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