The Lafayette Police Department will soon be facing yet another Civil Rights lawsuit says Erin Gardner who is currently interviewing Indianapolis area attorneys to take on the task. Gardner claims she suffered a dislocated shoulder last May when she was violently yanked from a rear passenger seat and slammed against the concrete street by LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb.
According to doctors, Gardner suffered a torn rotator cuff as a result of the alleged excessive force action and continues to receive physical therapy for the injury.
|Police file photo of Gardner receiving medical treatment|
After insisting on receiving medical attention, Gardner was eventually charged with refusal to identify herself, resisting law enforcement, seat belt violation, and possession of marijuana.
Although the possession charge was dropped, presumably for lack of evidence, Gardner’s version of events are in sharp contrast to the police reports written by Officer Webb and other responding officers, and she continues to suffer from her injuries to this day, physically and emotionally.
Fortunately for Gardner, evidence in the form of a dash cam video was finally relinquished to her recently after making several requests to her attorney for it over the past ten months. The footage validates many of Gardner’s claims, which she says gives her the confidence she needed to pursue justice. Before the video surfaced it was merely Gardner’s word against that of local police officers.
Gardner said she had done the responsible thing that night by calling a friend for a ride after drinking two alcoholic beverages at a local bar on Memorial Day last year. As her friend was driving past Jefferson High School on South 18th Street shortly before 4 a.m., he noticed a police car following them. At one point, the driver swerved to the left slightly to avoid hitting a parked vehicle, causing the police officer to pull him over for touching the center line.“I never dreamed I’d have my own police video,” lamented Gardner. “It was the most humiliating thing I’ve ever experienced. I was treated like a criminal without just cause, and I am not a criminal.”
After being stopped, Officer Webb began questioning Gardner, a back seat passenger in the vehicle. Another front seat passenger was handcuffed during the ordeal; however, Gardner says he was never questioned.
The officers mainly focused on Gardner who initially offered the fact that she was a pacifist and did not want any trouble. When asked for identification, Gardner said that she repeatedly informed the officer that she did not have her driver’s license with her because she was not driving. Indiana law does not require a passenger to carry a driver’s license or identification, nor does it require a citizen to identify oneself without probable cause; however, Gardner claims the officer kept asking her why she did not have identification with her.
Gardner stated that she repeatedly recited her social security number and driver’s license number as a means to identify herself; however, the officer refused the information and later wrote in a report that she was reciting “nonsensical” numbers to him.
“He knew the numbers were a means of identification,” said Gardner, who believes the officer was merely trying to cover up for his inappropriate actions after the fact.
Gardner said she repeatedly asked the officer why he was harassing her since she had done nothing wrong. She also complained about the fact that Officer Ian O’Shields continued to shine a bright light into her face for longer than was necessary.
Webb reportedly told Gardner that his probable cause for questioning her was that she was not wearing a seatbelt. Gardner disputes that claim, however, and believes it was merely an excuse to cover-up for violating her civil rights. She says that the officer could not have known whether or not she had been wearing a seatbelt because it was dark and the car’s windows were tinted when he first stopped her friend who was driving. By the time Webb approached the vehicle it was at a complete stop.
“You don’t need to have a seat belt fastened when a car is stopped,” said Paul Ogden, an Indianapolis attorney who was asked to review the case. “That was just a pretext for everything that followed.”
Ogden said that lawyers sometimes refer to these types of charges as “attitude charges.” He says prosecutors should refuse to file these types of “trumped up charges” that are filed merely as face-saving measures to get the defendant to admit guilt to something that protects the officer from being accused of acting improperly.”
Ogden went on to say that if a police officer does something unlawful and it leads to evidence being uncovered, then that evidence would have to be excluded. He says if the seat belt violation gets knocked out then everything else Gardner was charged with would follow, and rightly so.
“I landed on my shoulder and when the officer twisted my arm behind my back, I cried out in pain and told him I was hurt,” stated Gardner. “He ordered me to stand up and I asked him to please help me up using my right arm, but he didn’t.”
Gardner said the most degrading aspect of the ordeal was the body search conducted in full view of the dash camera as Officer Ian Shields stood right beside her staring as a female officer explored her private parts underneath her clothing. The officer reportedly found an empty container that tested positive for marijuana residue.
“I was so embarrassed in front of the male cop and did not deserve to be treated in such a degrading manner,” said Gardner. “And why did the male officer insist on standing so closely watching the entire thing? I was not resisting.”
Indianapolis attorney Paul Ogden reviewed the video and came to a similar conclusion.
“That officer who yanked that woman out of the car by her arm should be disciplined as well as possibly the male officer who leered at the woman while she was undergoing a body cavity search by the female officer,” commented Ogden. “He did not need to be there gawking during the search.”
Gardner also takes issue with the fact that her purse was searched without her permission.
“I was violated in so many ways,” she said.Gardner says that she is seeking a jury trial and pursuing a civil rights case for two reasons. First, she wants to clear her name and restore her reputation. Secondly, after hearing about the death threats that Tim VanderPlaats received from LPD officers, she realized that unless citizens stand up to police brutality it will continue to happen to others, some of whom may not have the resources to fight back.
Editor’s Note: The two officers that are seen in the video have been involved in other controversial situations. Officer Webb shot and killed a subject after a high speed chase that ended on South 9th Street. The suspect reportedly was wielding a knife in a threatening manner.
Officer O’Shields recently crashed his police cruiser into a sheriff’s vehicle near theLafayette police department.
Has Justice Been Subverted by Unfair Order Issued by Judge Les Meade?
|Judge Les Meade|
“He asked in a frustrated tone, ‘So you’re telling me that after two written pleas you want to go to jury trial?’”
When she affirmed the intention, he reportedly told her that he was going to schedule it quickly. Gardner believes she is being punished by the judge for not accepting a plea agreement and that a quick trial date would severely impede her ability to hire new counsel and prepare a proper defense.
Gardner stated that she was advised by her attorney to plead guilty to not wearing a seatbelt per a plea agreement that was made with the prosecutor; however, after giving it much thought, she could not in good conscience accept the plea since she says she was wearing a seatbelt and is always “religious about [wearing a seatbelt].” Gardner also claimed that the driver that night never allows anyone to ride in his vehicle unless they are buckled up. She says that it would violate her Buddhist religious beliefs to plead guilty to a crime she did not commit.
“I’m afraid our justice system is corrupt,” said Gardner. “I did not realize the scales of justice had been turned into Let’s Make a Deal.”
Gardner stated that she just recently received the dash cam video of the incident after making several requests. She also believes some of the video was edited, which raises further questions that she'd like to have time to explore. Gardner says she intends to gather further evidence to offer at trial, including possible depositions of a few of the witnesses, such as the driver, whom Gardner believes was not charged in exchange for his forced cooperation in agreeing to alleged false statements Officer Webb made against her.
Gardner says that she has watched the video several times and shakes each time she views the footage and the slam to the pavement that caused her shoulder injury. The ordeal has also caused significant emotional harm to Gardner who now suffers from agoraphobia. She has since hired a driver and a bodyguard, although she does not venture out nearly as often as she did prior to this happening to her.
“I would never treat a human that way, ever, not a child, not an animal, not anything, not even my laundry,” said Gardner.
Gardner, who describes herself as a pacifist, said she was dumbfounded when she was targeted by the police because she had done nothing wrong and there was simply no probable cause to justify the officer’s actions. She said she was in a state of shock throughout the entire ordeal.
Gardner admits that she was provoked to anger and cursed at the officers in frustration, which she now regrets; however, says the entire ordeal was unnecessary because she was simply minding her own business and not causing any problems while sitting as a passenger in the back seat of her friend’s car. Gardner says they just didn't like it when she began asserting her rights and questioning their conduct.
The video shows the officer referring to a seat belt violation prior to him jerking her by the arm in a rough manner and slamming her against the street pavement.
Gardner also cites a recorded conversation that she recently obtained as evidence that Webb was allegedly attempting to cover his misdeeds. She believes the audio conversation clearly shows coercion and intimidation on his part. She says that Officer Webb conducted an inappropriate interrogation-style interview of the driver who also felt intimidated by the encounter.
“My friend was intimidated into giving a false statement to the police officer, because he didn’t want to go to jail,” said Gardner. “He was terrified, and he agreed to statements that he had no knowledge of, because he could not have witnessed some of what happened to me.”
Gardner claims that LPD officers continue to harass her.
“They drive by a local coffee shop and laugh and wave when they see me,” she claims.