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IMPD officer accused of shotgun confrontation must face civil suit

November 16, 2017

An Indianapolis police officer accused of threatening two people with a shotgun in the parking lot of an apartment complex where he doubled as a security guard must face a trial on one of the alleged victims’ civil-rights complaint, a federal judge has ruled.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Anthony Bath was denied a motion for summary judgment Wednesday in a civil suit brought by Ja’Mille C. Taylor. District Judge William T. Lawrence ruled Taylor’s claims of excessive force and unreasonable seizure may proceed to a trial scheduled for Jan. 22, 2018. Lawrence granted the city of Indianapolis’ motion for summary judgment on Taylor’s claims.

Bath, a 13-year IMPD officer, also worked as a guard at the Woods of Eagle Creek apartment complex where the confrontation took place. Taylor arrived around 10:45 p.m. July 23, 2014, after finishing a shift as a mental health clinician at Community North Hospital. A former resident at the apartment complex, she met with Hudson Bowers III in the parking lot outside the apartment where he lived. The record notes Taylor and Bowers are African-American and Bath is white.

Taylor’s suit alleges Bath, wearing a T-shirt and boxer shorts and brandishing a shotgun, rushed at her car, accused the two of dealing drugs, and shouted, “You (expletives) are out here being loud with your music on! You woke up my nine-month-old baby!” The suit alleges no music was playing and there was no drug activity, and that Bath pointed the shotgun at Taylor. When Taylor grabbed her cellphone and said she was calling police, Bath replied, “I am the police,” then knocked the phone out of her hand, the suit alleges.

The suit claims Bath forcefully ordered Taylor and Bowers to the ground at gunpoint, then had a woman believed to be his girlfriend go inside his home to retrieve handcuffs. He then handcuffed Taylor after restraining her on the ground by placing his knee on the back of her neck.

After IMPD units arrived, Taylor was released. The suit says a search of her car found no incriminating evidence, and Lawrence wrote in his order that the supervising IMPD officer at the scene ordered Bath to apologize. Taylor was not charged.

Taylor later filed a Citizens Police Complaint against Bath, and Lawrence noted then-IMPD Chief of Police Richard Hite “found that Officer Bath had violated several IMPD policies. Specifically, Officer Bath was disciplined for conduct unbecoming an officer for using demeaning and affronting gestures towards Ms. Taylor and Mr. Bowers; failing to have his law enforcement identification when taking a police action; causing a negative response from a citizen who challenged his authority and called 911; improperly involving a citizen in a police action; failing to control his weapon; and failing to obtain a valid work permit, putting his courtesy officer status in question.”

Lawrence’s order under the summary judgment review standard presents facts in the light most favorable to Taylor, and also notes that Bath’s version of events differs dramatically. Attorney Edward Merchant represents Bath, who in his answer to the complaint largely denies the allegations, but admits that he did identify himself as a police officer to Taylor.

“We feel Officer Bath’s actions were at all times justified in the apprehension and arrest of Ms. Taylor,” Merchant, a partner at Ruckelshaus Kautzman Blackwell Bemis & Hasbrook, said Thursday.

Taylor in court filings said she suffered physical injuries, required counseling, and lost income, among other things, because of the confrontation. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees. Her attorney, Carman Malone, said litigating the matter has also been emotional for Taylor. “She’s had to undergo a lot of stress because of this situation, and we hope to get it resolved,” Malone said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Bath, who remains an IMPD officer, has sued Indianapolis in state court because the city has refused to defend him in this litigation. He contends he was acting in his capacity as an IMPD officer as well as a security guard for Woods of Eagle Creek.

“The case recently filed in Marion County asks the Court to order the City of Indianapolis to satisfy its statutory obligation of defending and indemnifying Officer Bath in the civil case filed against him in federal court,” Merchant said in a statement Thursday. “Now that the Court has issued its Order on Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment in federal court, we expect to move forward swiftly with the Marion County case.”

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