A northwest Indiana police department is facing a federal lawsuit after a family claimed an officer used excessive force on them during a dramatic traffic stop captured via cell phone video.
Lisa Mahone was driving, along with her boyfriend Jamal Jones and two children, to visit Mahone's ill mother at Stroger Hospital on Sept. 24 when they were pulled over by Hammond, Indiana, officers for a seat belt violation, the Post-Tribune reports.
According to the lawsuit, officers pulled them over in a "highly aggressive" manner, placing spike strips in front of the car and asking for both Mahone's driver's license, as well as Jones' identification.
Jones told the police he did not have a driver's license because he had recently been ticketed for not paying his insurance, per Mahone's complaint, and when he went into his bag to show them the ticket, officers reportedly refused to look at the ticket, ordered Jones out of the vehicle and pulled out their guns. Jones refused to exit the vehicle "because he feared that the officers would harm him."
Around this time, Mahone's 14-year-old son began recording the exchange, using the camera on his cell phone. His footage, uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 5, captures Mahone talking to police on her phone in an attempt to explain the situation, as well as the ongoing exchange between Jones and the officers.
The video shows the officers breaking the car's passenger window, spraying glass into the vehicle, and pulling Jones out of the car to arrest him. Officers also appear to use a stun gun on Jones while he is in view of the car. Mahone's 7-year-old daughter can be heard crying in the background.
The Chicago Tribune reports Jones was cited for resisting law enforcement and refusal to aid an officer. Mahone was also cited for a seat belt violation.
Mahone's lawsuit accused two named officers, as well as "other unknown officers," of using excessive force in the traffic stop. Both named officers have previously been cited in lawsuits alleging the excessive use of force and arrest without probable cause, according to the complaint.
In response to the lawsuit, Hammond Police stood by the officers' actions, saying in a statement reported by Fox Chicago that the officers "were at all times acting in the interest of officer safety and in accordance with Indiana law. ... In general, police officers who make legal traffic stops are allowed to ask passengers inside of a stopped vehicle for identification and to request that they exit a stopped vehicle for the officer's safety without a requirement of reasonable suspicion."
A Hammond police spokesman added in a prepared statement to CBS Chicago that the officer did not break the window and remove Jones until some 13 minutes after the traffic stop began. The spokesman also claimed Jones was seen to "repeatedly reach towards the rear seats of the vehicle," causing officers to fear that there was a weapon in the car.
The vehicle was never searched for weapons, Mahone's attorney, Dana Kurtz, told Fox.
Mahone's complete complaint is below: