The family of an Indiana man who died after police repeatedly used a stun gun on him filed a lawsuit Tuesday asserting that his constitutional rights were violated in an unprovoked "brutal and deadly assault."
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis contends that Charles "Charlie" Todero had done nothing to provoke an officer who shocked him with a stun gun 16 times in May 2016 in Greenwood, just south of Indianapolis.
Todero, 30, died two weeks later following numerous heart attacks, organ failure and other health complications that his family says resulted directly from the stun gun use, which occurred over a more than three minutes.
The officer was not charged and the police department said after Todero's death that it was confident that the responding officers had followed standard operating procedures.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, contends that Todero was stunned repeated with "for absolutely no reason" and that this amounted to excessive force that violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
"At the time, Charlie was unarmed, he was not acting violently, and he had done nothing to provoke or justify Defendant Blackwell's brutal and deadly assault," the lawsuit says.
Todero, of Trafalgar, had just left his father's funeral and was walking along a roadway, grieving and carrying his father's Bible, when an officer used the stun gun on him, it states.
After his death, Greenwood police said Todero had been walking in and out of traffic and was behaving dangerously before officers arrived at the scene.
But Steve Art, an attorney for the Todero family, said during a news conference outside the courthouse that nothing he had done merited being subjected to the stun gun shocks.
"The worst crime that Charlie Todero committed on the day he was excessively Tased was jaywalking. And in America we don't put police officers in charge as judge, jury and executioner for crimes like jaywalking," he said.
Art said the initial stun gun shock left Todero "completely subdued" but he was subjected to about 90 seconds of shocking from the officer's stun gun.
Krista Taggart, the attorney for Greenwood, issued a statement rejecting the lawsuit's claims. She declined to comment further about the lawsuit because it is pending.
Teresa Todero said her son, who was one of six brothers, had hepatitis C but was otherwise healthy prior to the stun gun incident.
"He was walking, talking strong and healthy until that day," she said at the news conference.
Art said that during Todero's two-week hospitalization, he showed every physiological sign of someone who had been excessively shocked by a stun gun, including repeated heart attacks and other symptoms.