A Gary police officer who was involved in a fatal shooting last weekend faced past disciplinary action for punching a juvenile in the stomach and then lying about it to superiors, according to records obtained by The Times.
Meanwhile, past court records show that the victim of the weekend shooting had been previously charged with disorderly conduct for arguing with officers.
Officer Isiah Price III, whom sources told The Times was the officer who shot and killed Rashad Cunningham early Saturday, was given 30 days suspension without pay for the 2013 incident, according to a complaint filed with the Gary Police Civil Service Commission.
The complaint was received September 2013 by the police commission against Price, claiming the officer violated the standards of the Gary Police Department's code of conduct, including truthfulness, use of force, performance of duty, professional conduct and false or incomplete reports.
The complaint alleges that on or about May 2, 2013, Price intentionally struck a compliant juvenile in the stomach with a closed fist. The juvenile was non-combative and was cooperating with officers' orders at the time.
“Price had no reasonable justification for using any type of force on the juvenile at the time he was struck,” the document said.
The report went on to say that Price failed to report the incident and did not assess the juvenile for any medical needs caused by being struck in the stomach.
The police department's internal affairs unit requested Price to prepare a report of the incident, and he omitted any reference to the alleged physical contact in the document. In two interviews conducted by the internal affairs unit, he denied having any physical contact with the juvenile, the report said.
On Aug. 8, 2013, Price reported to Deputy Chief Larry McKinley that he had not been truthful with the internal affairs unit. The same day, Price returned to the internal affairs office saying he lied and “then admitted to striking the juvenile without provocation or justification in the stomach with a closed fist.”
The complaint report said Price violated the department's code of conduct, which states that “employees shall not use or direct unjustified physical abuse, force or intimidation against any person.” Price also violated Indiana's battery law, the report said.
Price was suspended without pay for 30 days, as suggested by former Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram.
Both the Gary Police Department and Lake County Sheriff's Department have refused to identify the officer who shot and killed Cunningham. The investigation is ongoing.
Victim's court record
Cunningham, of Gary, has never been convicted of any felonies or violent crimes, and there are no such cases pending against him, according to online court records.
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There was one misdemeanor conviction that included harassment charges filed by an ex-girlfriend for text messages he sent her in January 2016, according to Hobart City Court documents. He and the woman had a child together, and the reported text messages indicate the verbal dispute was over visitation of the child.
Cunningham was additionally charged with disorderly conduct, a class B misdemeanor, stemming from an incident on June 19, 2017. He was booked into Lake County Jail and the disorderly conduct charge was deferred, and he was ordered to perform 20 hours of community service, according to court records. In March 2018, the state of Indiana moved to dismiss the charge.
Court records said that while driving on Crest Road in Gary, a Lake County Sheriff's officer pulled Cunningham over for speeding, saying he was allegedly traveling at 35 mph in a 20 mph zone, according to Lake Superior Court records.
Cunningham told the officer he was not driving at 35 mph and reportedly said to the officer that “county police always harass him,” the court document said. The officer then asked Cunningham's female passenger for her ID, to which Cunningham said the woman didn't have an ID card present. Police said Cunningham continued to interrupt the officer as they addressed the passenger.
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Another officer arrived on scene, and the officers had Cunningham step out of his vehicle to be patted down for weapons. After being searched, Cunningham began arguing with the officer, court records said. The officer said he allegedly saw neighbors look outside to see what was happening due to the loud argument and he told Cunningham if he didn't quiet down, he would be placed in handcuffs and arrested for disorderly conduct.
Cunningham allegedly began to say something again and the officer placed him in handcuffs and told him he was being temporarily detained and to stop yelling.
Cunningham then continued arguing with the officer and he was told he was being placed under arrest for disorderly conduct, court records said. Cunningham was cited for speeding and charged with disorderly conduct.
Heather Fox, who was in a relationship with Cunningham for four years and had a child with him, was the passenger in the vehicle during the incident, as indicated by court records.
She alleged the account the officer gave in the traffic stop incident was not true.
“I was there,” Fox said. “That officer arrested him because he pulled out his phone to record and said he didn't feel safe.”
Fox said since Cunningham's death, multiple people have reached out to her with further claims of alleged misconduct by Price.
“What's a misdemeanor compared to an officer who assaults people and then lies about it?” Fox said. “It just doesn't compare."
Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts, investigative news and more. She is a Region native and graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology.