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LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Three Lafayette residents involved in an incident in May in which police officers broke down the front door of a home on suspicion of domestic violence have filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages.

A civil damages claim, also known as tort law, is a civil court case in which a plaintiff seeks compensation for harm caused by the actions of another person. This allows for redress for wrongs done to a person before a formal lawsuit is filed and allows for a financial settlement outside of court.

Lafayette attorney Kirk Freeman, who represents the three alleged victims in the case, said in an email to the Journal and Courier that Lafayette Police Department officers “acted as if they came out of a bad dream.”

More: Man posts video of police and claims officers “trampled” on his rights

“This armed break-in at 1923 Maple Street last May is a warning signal for serious reform,” Freeman wrote. “We must transform them from savage robbers of our rights into disciplined, law-abiding defenders of our rights. That process begins now.”

William Neal, Taair Neal and Tammera “Tammy” Cooper notified the City of Lafayette and the Lafayette Police Department of their intention to file a formal lawsuit for violation of civil and constitutional rights, violation of the right to a fair trial, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, intimidation, violation of the First Amendment, negligence, gross negligence and lack of supervision.

The crime occurred on May 21, when Lafayette police arrived at William Neal’s home at 1923 Maple Street around 11:30 p.m. on a possible domestic violence incident, which police later said they had compelling evidence to support.

“When the police took me outside, he told me it was a domestic violence incident,” Cooper told the Journal and Courier after the incident. “They believed someone was seen injured in the apartment, and they couldn’t prove that with a closed door.”

According to the complaint, an officer knocked on the door and then ran from the porch, retreating to the yard where the home’s security camera could not see him. William Neal and Cooper were still awake and sitting in the front living room while Taair Neal was sleeping in his basement room.

William Neal asked the officer what he wanted, according to the complaint, when the officer returned to the porch to explain over the house’s intercom that he had received a call from their residence. The document states that Lafayette police later admitted that no call was ever made.

William Neal and Cooper continued to communicate over the home’s intercom, denying that a call had ever been made and that no one in the home needed police, the lawsuit said. The officer on the other side of the door was then joined by a half-dozen Lafayette colleagues carrying shoulder-mounted weapons, including assault rifles and ballistic shields.

A Lafayette police sergeant appeared and said over the intercom that he was “afraid of being shot and that that would not end well for the residents of the house, so they should be afraid of the police,” the document says.

William Neal then requested an arrest warrant, according to the indictment, and Cooper told officers she was unharmed. Nevertheless, officers held the house’s screen door open so they could use a battering ram to break down the door.

According to the tort, police addressed William Neal, one of William’s sons, as “Michael” and Cooper, the mother of Michael’s child, as “Leslie.”

By this time, Taair had woken up from the basement and began recording the police on his cell phone. Police reportedly went on to tell the three that Lafayette police had received a call about a possible domestic violence incident, which William Neal continued to deny.

Police then told the three residents that they had video of someone being beaten in the Maple Street home. But according to the lawsuit, the video in question was seven years old and was not taken in that home or in Tippecanoe County.

During the incident, officers dragged Cooper out of the house and into the front yard, according to the complaint. Officers then dragged Taair Neal and his phone out of the house and into the front yard. One officer allegedly took Taair Neal’s phone and put it in the Velcro pocket of his assault vest.

William and Taair Neal were arrested for resisting police and released from the Tippecanoe County Jail on bail, but the Tippecanoe County District Attorney has declined to file charges.

The lawsuit quotes one of the plaintiffs as saying that an unidentified police officer told the two, “Get any street lawyer you want in Lafayette to fight this, but you’re not going to do anything better than go to jail.”

After the incident, Lafayette police records were created that were supposed to prove that a certain Leslie Harris was present at 1923 Maple Street that evening, but this was not true, according to the lawsuit.

After his release from prison, the plaintiff said, Taair Neal discovered that his cell phone was neither in the prison nor in his home on Maple Street, but on 18th Street, on the way to the prison.

According to tort law, the extent of damages cannot be precisely calculated, but the losses include embarrassment, loss of freedom, emotional distress and the loss of constitutional rights.

The tort alleges that William and Taair Neal both suffered physical injuries to their wrists and arms during their arrest, while Cooper was injured in her arm and leg as she was dragged from the house.

“I actually want their jobs,” William Neal told the Journal and Courier in May. “They need better cops out here. I pay taxes. There’s no way I should pay my taxes to people like that who are bullies and tyrants.”

The damages demand includes the termination of all officers involved in the incident, a statement issued and signed by Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski acknowledging the violation of the plaintiff’s civil rights and offering a formal apology, and the passage of a city resolution calling for voluntary federal oversight and monitoring of the Lafayette Police Department’s structures and practices.

The document demands monetary damages of $300,000, to be divided equally among the three within 60 days of the claim being filed.

Jillian Ellison is a reporter for the Journal and Courier. Email her at [email protected]. Follow her on X at @ellison_writes.