HAMMOND, IN — After witnessing a motorist allegedly not wearing a seatbelt, police escalated a violent confrontation to the point of shattering a window to extract a passenger when he claimed not to have an ID.
The incident occurred in late September 2014, as Lisa Mahone was riding with her boyfriend and 2 children to the hospital to see her mother, who was literally on her deathbed.
“Oh my God, he’s pulling me over like I robbed a bank,” recalled Ms. Mahone, the driver and alleged seatbelt violator. “The whole situation was just crazy.”
“I gave him my license and insurance. I also let him know at the beginning to please hurry up because my mom is about to die,” Ms. Mahone said.
Hammond Police, fishing for more offenses, demanded that her adult passenger, Jamal Jones, produce an identification. Mr. Jones initially declined to provide an identification, but when officers continued to insist, he opened up his backpack to look for one.
That’s when police drew their guns and pointed them at Mr. Jones.
Police even deployed a spike strip in front of the vehicle’s tires.
Mr. Jones requested a supervisor, and Ms. Mahone dialed 9-1-1 to describe the situation and request the same.
“I am scared. And the man–pulled a gun out. A gun! Why do my kids have to see that,” Mahone told the 9-1-1 operator.
Mr. Jones expressed reluctance to get out of the vehicle due to the officers’ aggressiveness and mentioned that “People are getting shot by the police.”
“You all got a white shirt?” Jones asked, referring to the supervisor the family had been requesting. The officer responded, “Look at my shoulder, dumbass. I got bars.”
“You’re going to come out of the car one way or another,” the officer menaced. “You want your kids to see you come out through the window?”
Shortly thereafter, the HPD officers rammed a metal object through the passenger window and began to jolt Mr. Jones with a taser. Jones was yanked from of the vehicle, and Ms. Mahone and her children were showered in shards of broken glass.
According to FOX-32, Mr. Jones was criminally charged with “resisting law enforcement” and “refusal to aid an officer.” Ms. Mahone immediately filed a complaint and the couple has since filed a federal lawsuit.
Needless to say, the Hammond Police Department is standing by the actions of its officers, and described it as “reasonable.”
Part of the urgency for punishing the seemingly mundane offense may have been related to Hammond’s participation in the federal “Click-it or Ticket” campaign, a program in which the department rakes in federal grant money in exchange for promising to harass motorists about wearing seatbelts. The grants are doled out annually to departments across the country from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The Hammond Police Department has been mired in controversy recently after several uses of excessive force. Additionally, there is a federal lawsuit pending after an HPD officer crashed a family cookout and shot a family pet in the face while inside its own yard, secured by an electric fence. In yet another recent incident, an officer was filmed whipping an HPD K-9 and lifting off the ground it by its leash. Both officers were supported by department officials and faced no consequences.
Officers Patrick Vicari, Charles Turner, and other unknown officers were named as defendants in the lawsuit. The suit claims that Officer Vicari has been named as a defendant in at least three previous lawsuits involving the use of excessive force as well as arrest without probable cause, and that Officer Turner has been named as a defendant in at least one previous lawsuit involving similar accusations.
Only citizen activism can create the pressure necessary to stop the unaccountable, abusive behavior displayed by the Hammond Police Department, as well as the federal grants that subsidize their bad behavior.
READ THE LAWSUIT: Jones and Mahone v. City of Hammond, et al