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What we know: Women in viral video file excessive-force lawsuit against IMPD officers – IndyStar


An excessive-force lawsuit was filed against four Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers after a video captured their use of batons and pepper balls to arrest a woman during recent protests.

The lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of Ivoré Westfield and Rachel Harding, who were arrested May 31.

Here’s what we know:

What does the video show?

Video of the incident begins as a group of IMPD officers approach protesters at the corner of North Pennsylvania and East Washington streets May 31 after the 8 p.m. countywide curfew.

An officer who was already on the scene holds back Westfield’s arms while another begins to pull Harding’s behind her as well.

When Westfield twists from an officer’s grasp, a voice can be heard saying “hit her,” and officers surround Westfield. Audible pops can be heard on the video, followed by clouds of dust near Westfield, indicating officers fired pepper balls.

Ivoré Westfield sits at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Washington streets after she was arrested on suspicion of curfew violation on May 31, 2020.

Westfield is struck by two officers with batons until she falls to the sidewalk, and Harding stands nearby shouting “Why her? Why her?” before being shoved to the ground by an officer.

The video, which was shot by a WISH-TV reporter and posted on Facebook, does not show what caused the confrontation.

What happened after the incident?

While other individuals in the same group were released on their own recognizance, Harding and Westfield were not given a bond after being transported to the Marion County Jail.

The Marion County prosecutor declined to file charges, and Harding and Westfield were released from the jail June 2.

What happened to the officers?

The names of the officers involved have not been released by IMPD.

IMPD also told IndyStar an internal investigation had been opened but declined an interview request to provide additional information.

What does the lawsuit say?

The lawsuit states that Harding was downtown May 31 to protest while Westfield was there to take photos. The women did not previously know each other, but when Westfield realized curfew was about to go into effect, she asked Harding for a ride home, according to the lawsuit.

Rachel Harding is detained at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Washington streets after Black Lives Matter protests were broken up in downtown Indianapolis on Sunday, May 31, 2020.

While walking toward Harding’s car, the lawsuit states, multiple officers approached Harding and Westfield “in an aggressive manner” for violating curfew.

According to the lawsuit, the women were passive and cooperative before the arrests. After the arrest, the lawsuit states, Westfield was left with welts from the pepper balls as well as severe swelling and bruising to both of her legs and pelvic area.

In the lawsuit, it states Harding and Westfield are seeking:

  • Actual and compensatory damages 
  • Punitive damages
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees 
  • Litigation costs and expenses

Contact IndyStar Pulliam Fellow Brooke Kemp at bkemp@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @brookemkemp.

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