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Police in Hammond, Indiana, are the subject of federal lawsuit alleging officers broke a window, used a Taser on a passenger, and terrifed a car full of civilians, including two young children.
On September 24, Lisa Mahone and her boyfriend Jamal Jones were on their way to visit Mahone's mother in the hospital when Hammond police officers pulled them over for a "routine seat belt violation," according to the Chicago Tribune. What followed is a matter of contention, but a federal lawsuit accuses Hammond police of using excessive force and battery.
What's the story with this Hammond traffic stop, which was caught on cell phone video?
The video shot by 14-year-old Joseph Ivy, who was sitting in the car's backseat, appears to show police berating passenger Jones for his identification.
The tension appears to increase as police are not satisfied with Jones handing officers a paper ticket for "not paying his insurance," and the officers eventually order Jones to exit the vehicle. When Jones doesn't comply, an officer smashes the front passenger window and used a Taser on him.
You can see the video here:
According to the Tribune, officers say they believed Jones may have been reaching for a weapon -- though there were no weapons found in Mahone's vehicle or on Jones.
Mahone was cited for the seat belt violation and Jones was issued citations for "resisting law enforcement, failure to aid an officer," and the seat belt violation.
If you're a passenger in a car, you are not legally required to carry ID. Drivers like Mahone would be required to show officers a driver's license (as she did), but Jones would not be required to produce a photo ID.
Officers can ask for ID, but it is not typically considered disobeying an officer if a passenger simply doesn't have it. Jones may have been required under Illinois law to identify himself by name, but it seems like that happened.
Officers are often given extreme deference when they feel threatened. For example, pat-downs for weapons and use the use of force may be justified if officers reasonably believe a passenger is a threat to officer safety. Whether the Hammond officers were reasonable in their belief that Jones was a threat to their safety is now for a federal court to decide.
Law enforcement officers are typically immune from lawsuits, but victims of police violence can prevail if they can prove that police violated a clearly established constitutional or statutory right.
Jones and Mahone may need to prove their civil rights were violated in order to obtain any compensation from a seemingly hellish traffic stop.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.