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Family files federal lawsuit against Elkhart Police, Chiefs, Officers, City

NOW: Family files federal lawsuit against Elkhart Police, Chiefs, Officers, City

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ELKHART, Ind. – The family of a man who was shot and killed by Elkhart Police in December, 2016, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court late last month. The suit was filed just after the police department came under intense public scrutiny following the release of an excessive use of force video showing two officers punching a handcuffed man who had spit on one officer.

Since the release of the video, Mayor Tim Neese requested and received the resignation of Chief Ed Windbigler. Assistant Chief Todd Thayer is now the acting chief. Both Windbigler and Thayer are listed as defendants in the new federal lawsuit. Three officers, the city and the police department are also listed as defendants.

Police shot and killed 29-year-old Norman Gary on Decamp Avenue. The officers were responding to a burglary call on Capitol Boulevard when they heard gunshots nearby. When they responded to the shots, police said Norman drove his vehicle toward the officers. Two officers opened fire. Gary died on the scene. A grand jury cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

The 36 page federal complaint says the officers shot at Gary’s vehicle from the side and did not have justification to do so. It also details what the family believes was an active cover-up.

The complaint says Chief Windbigler and Assistant Chief Thayer interfered with the independent investigation of the Indiana State Police by pulling the officers involved from the scene prior to the arrival of ISP investigators, assisting the officers in developing diagrams of the crime scene and ordering the officers to submit to interviews by the prosecutor’s office to prepare them for interviews with ISP.

The complaint also says the officers weren’t properly trained. Among other things, it says body cams and dash cams either weren’t running, didn’t work or weren’t being worn. Despite violations of department protocol, the officer weren’t disciplined, according to the complaint.

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