Judge Sarah Evans Barker rules that it is okay for policeman to break innocent woman’s shoulder
Case: BEAN v. INDIANA UNIVERSITY, 855 F.Supp.2d 857 (2012)
Lynette Hilder visited Bloomington, Indiana on October 4, 2009 with her husband, Richard Bean, and their sons, Ben and Myles Bean, to attend Indiana University alumni events and to visit Ben, who is currently enrolled as an undergraduate student at Indiana University. Kirkwood Avenue is a street contiguous to the campus whose many shops and eating/drinking establishments attract a regular flow of people and activities.
As the family walked along Kirkwood Avenue that evening, several fights erupted in their vicinity, which disturbances soon brought police officers to the scene. Officer Garth Van Leeuwen of the Indiana University Police Department was one such officer who responded in an apparent attempt to restore order that night, running “at an extremely high rate of speed” along the sidewalk in pursuit of a suspect from one of the fights, and in the process, pushing past Ben and Myles. Ms. Hilder, meanwhile, was walking at a leisurely pace in front of her sons, unaware of Officer Van Leeuwen’s presence.
As Officer Van Leeuwen passed Ben and Myles and approached Ms. Hilder, he “bent down in a blocking position” and continued running, eventually colliding with Ms. Hilder and causing her to fall to the ground “in the path of oncoming traffic” on Kirkwood Avenue. Despite this collision with Ms. Hilder, Officer Van Leeuwen did not stop running to determine if she was injured, but continued running toward the suspect. Ms. Hilder suffered fractures of several bones in her shoulder, causing her to undergo several surgeries to repair those injuries. At this point, she requires further surgery to remove bone fragments from her shoulder and alleges that she might never regain full range of motion in the affected arm and joint.
Decision: No violation of 4a because the victim was not “seized” within the meaning of 4a. Judge Barker suggested that the woman with the broken shoulder might, or might not, do better in Indiana state court.
Comment: Whether or not Judge Barker is correct on the law, the result, sending this victim (and I think she was a victim) away empty handed feels unfair and wrong to me.