By Liz Shepherd
SYRACUSE — A Syracuse family is suing the city of Warsaw and two Warsaw Police Department officers after alleged violations of constitutional rights.
Pamela, David and Solomon Gregory are the plaintiffs. Court documents state the plaintiffs’ federal claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States. The Gregorys are being represented by Kenneth J. Falk and Stevie J. Pactor, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Indianapolis.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court Northern District of Indiana – South Bend Division on Nov. 29.
Defendants in the case are the City of Warsaw, WPD Chief Scott Whitaker, and WPD Capt. Paul Heaton.
According to the complaint, on Dec. 31, 2021, and into the morning hours of Jan. 1, 2021, Whitaker became concerned his underage daughter was attending a New Year’s party at the Gregorys’ home.
While using a police vehicle and accompanied by Heaton, Whitaker went to the Gregorys’ home and pulled into the residence’s driveway. Heaton then allegedly entered the residence’s garage through a closed door. At the time, there were individuals in the garage who were 18 and older who had a list of people invited to the party, and they told Heaton he could not enter the home. Heaton then left the garage.
Shortly after midnight, Heaton forced the residence’s locked front door open, breaking the doorknob’s lock. He entered the home, announcing himself as a police officer.
Pamela and David, Solomon’s parents, were not home at the time. Solomon was in the basement with friends, and it was later determined that Whitaker’s daughter was not at the home.
One of Solomon’s friends told Solomon an adult had entered the garage and Solomon went to investigate. When Solomon entered the residence’s kitchen, he saw Heaton in the home with a flashlight. Heaton asked Solomon where Whitaker’s daughter was and Solomon said he didn’t think she was there.
Solomon then asked Heaton where his warrant was that justified entry into the home, and Heaton allegedly said he did not need a warrant.
After being assured by several people in the home that Whitaker’s daughter was not there, Heaton left the home through the garage’s back door. Solomon followed Heaton and noticed Whitaker standing near the police vehicle. Heaton then suddenly grabbed Solomon by his shoulder and the back of his arms, and held him for about one minute. After a short period of time, Solomon was able to break free and re-entered his home.
Heaton remained outside the home and called for backup. Syracuse Police officers and deputies with the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office came to the property. A number of the young people on the premises received citations for underage drinking; Solomon did not receive a citation.
When Pamela and David returned to the home, Heaton asked if he could be escorted through the residence to once again look for Whitaker’s daughter.
David consented and led Heaton through the home. While in the home, Heaton proceeded to look through cabinet drawers in the residence’s basement. Court documents state Heaton did not have permission to do that, and David told Heaton he did not have permission to search the drawers.
On May 31, the Gregorys filed a notice of tort claim as required by Indiana law and their claim has not been approved and therefore has been deemed to be denied.
Legal claims listed in the suit are as follows:
- Heaton violated the Fourth Amendment by entering the Gregorys’ property and searching it, and by seizing Solomon. Documents further state Whitaker’s actions violated the Fourth Amendment if Whitaker directed Heaton to enter the property or failed to intervene to stop the entry.
- Heaton seizing Solomon represents a tort for which the city of Warsaw is liable or, in the alternative, Heaton is liable, if Heaton was not acting within the scope of his employment.
The Gregorys are requesting a jury trial in the case and are seeking a declaration that the defendants have violated the Gregorys’ rights.