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McNary v. Hamer

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 23, 2018

TONI EYLSE MCNARY, Plaintiff,
v.
AARON HAMER, Defendant.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW FOLLOWING TRIAL

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE

         A bench trial was held in this case on December 20, 2017. The Court, having considered the evidence submitted at trial, hereby makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.[1]

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         On June 18, 2014, Plaintiff Toni McNary voluntarily sat down for an interview with Indianapolis Metro Police Department (“IMPD”) Detective Cheryl Cameron at a police station in Indianapolis. McNary came to the station with her mother, Kay Deamus, and McNary's young nephew. The subject of the interview was an incident in which McNary was involved that occurred on April 10, 2014 (hereinafter referred to as the “April Incident”). The interview came about because McNary's car had been impounded following the April Incident and McNary had called Cameron repeatedly about having her car released from impoundment. McNary thought that the interview with Cameron would give her the opportunity to give her version of what took place during the April Incident.

         Cameron's lengthy interview was video and audio recorded in its entirety. The recording reveals that Cameron was professional in her tone and demeanor throughout the interview, and McNary likewise was polite and level-headed and used a normal conversational tone throughout the interview.

         After the interview had gone on for approximately two hours, Cameron left the interview room to go across the hall to speak to a prosecutor. McNary also left the interview room to use the restroom. After McNary returned to the room, she spoke with her attorney on her cellphone; he advised her to leave the interview. Cameron then returned to the room[2] and told McNary that she had spoken to the prosecutor and that McNary was going to be placed under arrest for charges relating to the April Incident.

         The fact that she was going to be arrested came as a complete surprise to McNary. She began arguing with Cameron in a calm manner, stating her belief that she had not done anything wrong, explaining that a family member who had been involved in the April Incident was the one who should be arrested, and asking to call her lawyer. She emphasized that she would not have voluntarily come in to be interviewed if she thought it would lead to her arrest. Cameron told her that she could call her lawyer from the jail, but that at that time she needed to put her hands behind her back to be handcuffed. At that point, both McNary and Cameron were standing in the interview room. Cameron calmly took hold of McNary's right wrist in order to handcuff her, but McNary pulled her arm away and began screaming and flailing her arms, trying to prevent Cameron from attaching the handcuffs to her. McNary backed into the wall[3]and continued to scream that she was not going to jail.

         At that point, Cameron asked Hamer to assist her. Cameron had earlier informed Hamer that she was interviewing McNary and that she “could be a potential problem when arresting her.” Hamer had been in the prosecutor's office across the hall from the interview room and had entered the interview room to assist Cameron when he heard screaming. When Hamer entered the interview room, he saw McNary flailing her arms toward Cameron as Cameron tried to handcuff her. Hamer testified that McNary was “hysterical” and Cameron was telling McNary to put her hands behind her back. The Court finds that testimony to be consistent with the videotape of the incident.[4]

         Hamer, who is much larger than McNary and Cameron, assisted Cameron in moving McNary out from the wall so that she could be handcuffed. McNary continued screaming that she would not be going to jail. After the two detectives struggled with McNary for a few seconds, Cameron was able to cuff McNary's right wrist. When she continued to struggle, Hamer attempted to take her down to the ground using a leg sweep, but was unsuccessful. Cameron then successfully used a leg sweep to bring McNary down to the ground. Both detectives went down to the ground with her, and Hamer was able to handcuff McNary's left hand. In the course of taking McNary to the ground, Hamer heard a pop, and McNary began to scream that her arm was broken.[5] A uniformed officer who had come to the room used his radio to summon emergency medical help almost immediately; medics arrived about eight minutes later. In the meantime, McNary remained handcuffed on the floor. An x-ray later revealed that McNary had suffered a nondisplaced fracture of her left humerus.

         II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         The issue before the Court is whether Hamer used excessive force in assisting in the arrest of McNary. McNary has the burden of providing her claims by a preponderance of the evidence.

         McNary alleged in her Complaint and testified at trial that Hamer purposely broke her arm. The Court finds that he did not; rather, McNary's arm was accidentally broken when Hamer and Cameron took McNary to the ground in order to handcuff her. The question is whether the actions taken by Hamer were objectively reasonable.

A claim that a law enforcement officer used excessive force when effectuating an arrest is analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's objective reasonableness standard. Whether a police officer used excessive force is analyzed from the perspective of a reasonable officer under the circumstances, rather than examining the officer's actions in hindsight. The reasonableness of an officer's actions must be determined by examining the specific circumstances of the arrest, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

Avina v. Bohlen, 882 F.3d 674, 678 (7th Cir. 2018) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). In this case there is no question that McNary was actively resisting arrest. The Court While it is not likely that she would have caused the officers severe injury, the possibility also finds that given McNary's hysterical reaction, she did, in fact, pose a threat to the officers. certainly existed; for example, she could have picked up one of the chairs in the room and used it as a weapon.[6] In light of the totality of the circumstances, Hamer's actions, including working with Cameron to take McNary to the ground in order to gain control over her and handcuff her, were reasonable. It is unfortunate that the result of those actions was that McNary's arm was broken, and the Court is in no way suggesting that McNary deserved ...


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