Omaha family sues police in ‘caught-on-tape’ case

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Posted: Jan 06, 2014 1:17 PM
Omaha family sues police in ‘caught-on-tape’ case

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

OMAHA—Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and 32 of his officers—nearly four percent of the department—are listed in a federal lawsuit filed Monday accusing police of excessive force and illegal search and seizure.

"Caught-on-Tape"

“Caught-on-Tape”

The lawsuit stems from a highly publicized caught-on-tape incident last March 21.

The video—shot by a member of the public— shows a police officer (see video below) throwing a man to the ground and hitting him several times, while a dozen other officers storm a home across the street.

According to ACLU Nebraska which filed the suit, 32 police descended on 33rd and Seward and violated the rights of brothers Juaquez and Demetrius Johnson, their mother Sharon and two other family members.

Although Schmaderer fired four officers the ACLU is far from satisfied with OPD’s handling of the case including the lack of any independent oversight and waste of tax dollars.

“Pulling over twenty officers away from other parts of the city should sound an alarm for taxpayers,” says Amy Miller of the ACLU.

The Johnson family is accusing Omaha police of excessive force

The Johnson family is accusing Omaha police of excessive force

“A parking ticket turned into officers storming my house and me being thrown to the ground and put into a chokehold,” said Octavius Johnson.

“I have seen incidents like this happen to other people. I now know that something like this could happen to not just my family, but any family.”

While all charges against the Johnsons were dropped, the ACLU says the family has never received financial compensation for medical expenses or damage to their property.

Sharon Johnson issued this statement:

Officers entered the home while I was watching from the front door. Juaquez enters and next thing I know an officer enters, throws my wheelchair and me out of the way. I end up with the wheelchair on top of me, my legs in the air. Several officers continued to walk over me as they entered the house. I eventually rolled my way into the living room and got myself upright. I saw Juaquez surrounded by officers and started asking what was going on. I ended up in handcuffs. It wasn’t until a family member came by later that I was able to get back into my wheelchair. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. I still have physical pain from that day.

The city was not immediately available for comment on the lawsuit which along with Schmaderer includes eight named officers and 24 unnamed officers.

Along with monetary damages the lawsuit also asks that Omaha police receive mandatory training in “de-escalation” and the First Amendment rights of those who record police in public.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org and listen to Joe every Monday morning at 7:40 on KFAB radio in Omaha.

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