INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed after social media video surfaced of an IMPD officer punching a student outside Shortridge High School last week.
The suit names IMPD Officer Robert Lawson and two other officers. Lawson has been placed on administrative leave. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had not previously disclosed his name. Two other officers seen on the video are named as “Jane Doe” and “John Roe.”
The suit was filed by the Kinnard & Scott law firm on behalf of Danielle Pointer and two juveniles. It also includes new video of the incident recorded from across the street. That video came "confidentially from a concerned citizen," the law firm said.
According to the lawsuit, a conflict arose involving one of the teens, who’d been attacked by other students at the school. Another teen, a family member, intervened on behalf of his relative; that led to a response from officers, who used an “aerosol chemical agent” on one of the teens.
IPS called IMPD to assist with the disturbance, bringing Lawson and another officer to the school. Because of the fight, Shortridge was on lockdown and Pointer couldn’t go inside the building.
When the teens came out of the main entrance, two IMPD officers and an IPS officer were with them. Pointer yelled at the officers, protesting that “school administrators were inside the building and would not respond to her complaints regarding the police conduct.”
One of the teens began recording with a cellphone. What happened next has been seen before: Lawson threatened to arrest Pointer, saying, “You want to go to jail? You want to go to jail? Let’s go!”
At that point, one of the teens stepped in front of the officer. He made “no aggressive moves” toward Lawson, the lawsuit said, before Lawson punched him in the jaw.
The officer put him in a headlock and hit him in the stomach with his knee, the lawsuit said. The teen was placed in handcuffs; police later said he was “unarrested,” according to the suit, and released him from custody.
The suit also alleges that Lawson lied about his conduct, saying in the incident report that he’d delivered an “open palm” strike to the teen. One of the officers also tried to seize the phone that recorded the incident, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana, seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, litigation costs and “all other appropriate relief.”
When asked for a statement, IPS said it doesn't comment on pending litigation, but added "We are focused on ensuring the safety and security of all students remains our top priority."