INDIANAPOLIS (WRTV) — Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer De'Joure Mercer, who fatally shot and killed Dreasjon Reed in May 2020, has filed a complaint against the NFL claiming Mercer suffered injuries and damages in response to its publications.
The complaint, filed Mondayin the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, says the NFL's social media posts and campaign including Reed caused Mercer to suffer "severe emotional and reputational injury in his personal and professional capacities," emotional distress, personal physical injury and millions of dollars of damages and financial losses throughout his life.
The complaint is seeking a jury trial, substantial compensatory damages for an amount to be determined at trial, the NFL be held liable for the reputational harm and more.
Reed's death on May 6, 2020, near West 62nd Street and Michigan Road following a pursuit led to protests at the scene and throughout the city. Reed's name and pictures were frequent sights and chants during the protests in Indianapolis and across the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
According to the complaint, on Sept. 11, 2020, the NFL published a video as a part of its "Say Their Stories" campaign. The video included the names and pictures of Reed, Floyd and others.
During the video, the NFL also mentioned the NFL would honor the "victims of social injustice" by wearing their names on their hats and helmets and tell their stories. Reed's name was included on the list of 87 names players could wear, though, according to the complaint, no players did.
Days after the video was published, the complaint alleges IMPD Chief Randal Taylor contacted Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Frank Reich and explained Mercer didn't commit police misconduct in connection with Reed's death.
A special prosecutor, Rosemary Khoury, was appointed to investigate the deadly shooting. In November 2020, a grand jury declined to indict Mercer.
Right after Khoury announced the grand jury's decision, Indiana State Police, which investigated the shooting, presented the detective's findings of the incident.
On Dec. 16, 2020, the NFL tweeted a caption and picture of Reed, noting Reed was "one of the many individuals being honored by players and coaches this season through the NFL’s helmet decal program." A Facebook post with the same photo and caption was also posted to the NFL's page on the same day.
Say His Name: Dreasjon Reed— NFL (@NFL) December 16, 2020
Dreasjon is one of the many individuals being honored by players and coaches this season through the NFL’s helmet decal program.#SayTheirStories: https://t.co/vwi75WmNxr pic.twitter.com/wWaasw6LBp
Following Reed's death and the NFL's publications, according to the complaint, Mercer received death threats and faced public hatred.
The complaint alleges Mercer was also identified and filmed by a woman while he was shopping at a local Walmart as the woman "held her children away from" him as if he "were dangerous" and would "harm her children."
"This incident devastated Mercer and inflicted severe mental anguish," the complaint read.
The complaint also alleges many threats were "inspired by and referred specifically" to the posts from the NFL. One example listed in the complaint is a "wanted" poster with Mercer's image on it. Another picture in the lawsuit, a side-by-side of Reed and Mercer, was "circulated online."
After months of threats and in fear of his own safety, Mercer sold his house where he lived alone and moved in with a friend around December 2020, according to the complaint.
"De’Joure Mercer is a hero," Guy Relford, Mercer's attorney, said. "He tracked down a very dangerous criminal wanted by the police, who was a threat to the citizens of Indianapolis. He put his life on the line and was nearly killed in that effort. He was completely exonerated after an exhaustive investigation into the death of Mr. Reed. For NFL Enterprises then to suggest he was involved in police or racist misconduct is totally false, defamatory and unacceptable."
WRTV has reached out to Reed's family attorney's office and IMPD for a response to the lawsuit Monday evening and is awaiting responses. WRTV is attempting to contact the NFL for a response.
You can read the full complaint below.