3:00 PM EST, December 7, 2012
A Lawrence police officer accused of excessive force now faces charges related to a shoplifting arrest in August.
He's accused of kicking a man in the head.
Gabriel Slaybaugh, a 7-year veteran of the Lawrence Police Department, faces battery and official misconduct charges. The department turned the investigation over to the Special Investigations Unit of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office filed the charges after IMPD presented its findings.
On Aug. 25, Lawrence police arrived at Walmart located at 10735 Pendleton Pike, where a loss prevention officer noticed a man shoplifting at the store. According to the probable cause affidavit, the Walmart worker noticed the man “continued to look up at the security cameras” and was “constantly on and off his cell phone.” The loss prevention officer said the man had “taken out bags” and was bagging items inside his cart, court documents said.
The man—later identified as Robert Riedling—passed through the checkout area without paying for any of the items in his cart. Loss prevention officers stopped Riedling and recovered the shopping cart and the items stolen. Riedling then evaded the Walmart workers and went outside to the parking lot.
He was met by Jon Clark, a K-9 officer with the Lawrence Police Department. According to Clark’s account, Riedling came running out of the store and attempted to open the door of a vehicle that was driving by. Clark told investigators he ordered Riedling to get down and that the suspected shoplifter looked like he was trying to get away. Finally, Clark said, Riedling got on his knees. Clark said he ordered Riedling to lie down.
Riedling wouldn’t lie down, according to Clark’s account. Slaybaugh arrived, and Clark said “the next thing I know, Officer Slaybaugh is on top of (Riedling) pushing him, or not pushing him. He’s on top of him on the ground and trying to cuff him.”
Investigators obtained surveillance footage from the incident that didn’t appear to support Clark’s account. While viewing the recording, investigators said Riedling didn’t attempt to get into a passing vehicle. Riedling didn’t take a step back or try to run, court documents said, because Clark and his K-9 partner were within a few feet of Riedling.
According to the probable cause, Riedling was “down on one knee, had no weapon, had no physical contact with any officer and had an LPD K-9 barking virtually in his face.” The video showed Slaybaugh running across the parking lot before kicking Riedling in the head.
Riedling told investigators he got down as soon as Clark ordered him to do so outside the store. He said he remembered Slaybaugh approaching him, adding that the officer “wasn’t familiar with what was going on with me and this officer (Clark) at all.” Riedling said Slaybaugh “immediately just took off running as fast and hard as he could” and then kicked him in the head.
“He’s running full force and then he kicks me…with the heel of his boot in my left eye,” Riedling told investigators. He said he didn’t lose consciousness and remembers Slaybaugh repeatedly telling him to “stop resisting.”
Another investigator—a defense tactics instructor at IMPD—viewed footage of the arrest, saying that “the level of resistance demonstrated by Robert Riedling did not justify the level of force used by the officer.” Based on his viewing of the video, the officer reiterated that he didn’t feel Slaybaugh’s “thrust kick” was justifiable, according to court documents.
Slaybaugh was placed on administrative leave when the investigation began and will remain on leave until the case is resolved.