INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The complaint filed in federal court by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer De’Joure Mercer claims that the NFL used at least one video broadcast on television along with tweets and posts on the league’s social media sites suggesting that Dreasjon Reed died as a result of police misconduct on May 6, 2020.
But a grand jury declined to file charges against Mercer, and an internal investigation found he followed IMPD policies.
Guy Relford is one of the lawyers representing Mercer.
“The NFL launched this whole campaign that accused Officer Mercer, understanding that he had been cleared, but declared Dreasjon Reed a victim of police misconduct and systemic racism. And here you are a Black police officer, you have defended your life and your fellow officers’ lives, and now you are being accused of police misconduct,” Relford said.
Relford says the lawsuit focuses on a series of tweets and videos that appeared on the NFL’s social media sites. A three-minute-long video that was broadcast on television shows a picture of Reed in his Army uniform as the narrator says, “a mission to go beyond their name, to dig deeper, to reveal who they really were and why they are no longer with us.”
“And that campaign was unavoidable. You couldn’t turn on the TV or get on social media without seeing it and it had a devastating effect on [Mercer]” Relford said.
Relford says Mercer received a number of threats that increased around the time when the NFL’s social justice campaign was in full swing. He points to a tweet on the NFL’s Twitter page in December of last year with a picture of Reed. The tweet says, “Dreasjon is one of the many individuals being honored by players and coaches this season through the NFL’s helmet decal program.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay went on Twitter to dismiss the NFL’s claim.
I-Team 8 talked to Indiana University law professor Joe Tomain about the case. Tomain says the case could have an uphill battle.
“From a legal perspective, this is going to be a difficult case for Officer Mercer and his attorneys to win,” Tomain said.
Tomain says there are a couple major hurdles: No. 1, was there an actual defamatory statement made by the NFL? If so, was it directed at Officer Mercer, and was the statement intended to harm Mercer?
“The burden of proof in this case is very likely to be actual malice, which is an incredible high burden to prove,” Tomain added.
I-Team 8 asked IMPD and the Colts for a statement. Both said they are not named in the suit and declined to comment on pending litigation.
The law firm that represents Dreasjon Reed’s family sent a statement late Tuesday afternoon.
“We have reviewed with dismay the 32-page suit filed by Officer De’Joure Mercer against the NFL. The grand jury deciding not to move forward with criminal charges does not mean that Officer Mercer was not responsible for Dreasjon’s death. In fact, it only confirmed what we all already knew, that the grand jury system often favors the police.
We are sure the NFL is more than capable of defending themselves. We are, however, more concerned that Dreasjon is not here to defend himself against the version of events as stated in this lawsuit. Officer Mercer is currently being sued in federal court, but that suit will not bring the justice that Dreasjon deserves. This is exactly why we need the FBI to intervene and exactly why we have contacted the Department of Justice to reopen the investigation into Dreasjon’s death.”Law firm of Fatima Johnson, attorneys for family of Dreasjon Reed