Attorney for Indianapolis family discusses federal civil rights lawsuit filed following Shortridge High School incident

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The attorney for an Indianapolis family discussed the federal civil rights lawsuit filed against officers involved in a violent confrontation at Shortridge High School last week.

The case of Pointer v. Officer Richard Lawson was filed by the Kinnard & Scott law firm on behalf of Danielle Pointer and two juveniles. Attorney Terrance Kinnard discussed the case Thursday morning. Plaintiff Danielle Pointer, the mother of the student who was punched, was present but didn't speak. Kinnard said she wanted to be there to show support for her son and his cousin.

The lawsuit comes after videos surfaced showing an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer punching a student outside Shortridge High School last Thursday.

The first video released last week shows an IMPD officer, identified as Officer Robert Lawson in the lawsuit, punching a teenager after a heated exchange. A second video released Wednesday with the lawsuit was shot from across the street. The law firm said it came from a “concerned citizen.”

During Thursday's news conference, Kinnard said he believes the student's civil rights were violated during the incident.

"This was simply an unprovoked striking by an officer," Kinnard said.

Kinnard described the teen as an "exceptional" student who worked two jobs and has an appreciation for the "rule of law." The incident, which led to the student's suspension, has put him into a depression, Kinnard said.

The attorney said many people came forward with eyewitness accounts and video of the encounter. He said the law firm is still trying to get video from inside the school building.

"We have received an outpouring of requests from the entire public on social media, direct contact with our office, direct contact with Mrs. Pointer, indicating how concerned they are that a child would be assaulted while on school property," Kinnard said.

"From the public's viewpoint, as related to us, they are aghast that children would be harmed in the place that should be one of the most safe environments that a child could be in, and that is at the school building."

Kinnard recognized that IMPD and IPS took swift action. He also said the family is grateful for support from the public.

"What I would like to see happen for this officer is for him to have an opportunity to be fully adjudged in a court of law for his actions," Kinnard said. "Merely being suspended by his employer, that is a great first step. He is also afforded the right to have a trial where he gets the opportunity to put forth his side of the story, and I think he should be afforded that right in a court of law. I think charges should be filed against this officer."

The lawsuit describes what attorneys say is happening in the video. They say Lawson became angry when Pointer loudly protested how an officer handled a fight at the school earlier in the day.

Attorneys say one of the students "maintained his arms at his sides and made no aggressive moves" as he approached Lawson. That’s when Lawson struck the student "without warning" in the jaw with "a powerful closed-fist punch".

Lawson has been placed on administrative leave. The two other officers seen on the video are named as “Jane Doe” and “John Roe.”

IMPD has not commented about the lawsuit, but last weekend, Chief Bryan Roach released a statement saying the incident shows "a technique which is not taught or reasonable given the facts known.”

We also reached out to IPS officials who would not comment on pending litigation, but in a statement they said the safety and security of their students remains a top priority.

The suit also alleges that Lawson lied about his conduct, saying in the incident report that he delivered an “open palm” strike to the teen. One of the officers also tried to seize the phone that recorded the incident.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, litigation costs and “all other appropriate relief.”

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