Lawsuit filed against IMPD officers alleging excessive force during violent arrest after a downtown protest

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INDIANAPOLIS – Two women filed a lawsuit against four members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department following their violent arrest after a downtown protest last month.

The arrests were captured on video by a CBS4 photographer as the curfew went into effect on May 31.

The lawsuit was filed by two Marion County residents, Ivoré Westfield and Rachel Harding, and lists three unnamed officers and an unnamed sergeant.

The officers and the sergeant are unnamed because IMPD has declined to provide that information, according to court documents.

“It is inconceivable that the City of Indianapolis and its police department would not reveal the names of officers involved in the use of force against it citizens, especially when the conduct complained of – and the officers involved – has been widely broadcast through the media,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims both women had a clearly-established constitutional right to be free from excessive force and neither of them posed a threat to these officers.

GRAPHIC VIDEO WARNING: This video is violent. Viewer discretion is advised. 

The lawsuit also details the events leading up to the women’s arrests.

The lawsuit says Harding was in downtown that evening, along with hundreds of others, to peacefully protest for law enforcement reform. It claims Westfield was there to take pictures of the protesters and various graffiti marking the downtown area. They did not know each other before this night.

As the designated curfew time of 8 p.m. neared, Westfield realized her ride was not able to drive her home. She met Harding by happenstance near Monument Circle, and Harding agreed to drive her home, according to the lawsuit.

While they were walking to Harding’s car around 8:45p.m. on East Washington Street, court documents say multiple officers approached them and told them they were under arrest for violating curfew.

The lawsuit says Harding and Westfield were passive and cooperative.

Westfield initially provided her hands to the unnamed sergeant to be handcuffed, but he became aggressive and placed his body against her and forced her “arms upward behind her back into an unnatural position causing extreme pain.”

At that time, she pulled her arms away, “but at no time engaged in any type of assault” upon the sergeant or any other officer, the lawsuit says.

The sergeant stepped away from Westfield and told one of the officers to “hit her,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says another officer fired multiple pepper ball rounds into her body, and two other officers hit her with batons. Court documents say the pepper balls broke Westfield’s skin and caused welts.

She fell to the ground, and one of the officers placed a baton against her head and neck while he placed her in handcuffs.

As Harding was filming the arrest, the lawsuit says an officer pushed her to the ground.

The women were transported to the Marion County Jail, and they were released in the early morning hours of June 2, 2020.

The Marion County prosecutor declined to file charges against them.

The lawsuit lists three complaints: two counts of excessive force and duty to intervene.

The women are seeking: “actual and compensatory damages; punitive damages in an amount sufficient to deter defendants from again engaging in the conduct described herein; reasonable attorney’s fees; litigation costs and expenses; and all other appropriate relief.”

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