December 9, 2023

Police officers acquitted of excessive force in 2020 protest arrests

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers were found not guilty of multiple charges stemming from an incident that occurred during the 2020 racial justice protests in downtown Indianapolis.

After a five day trial, a Marion County jury acquitted IMPD officer Jonathan Horlock on four charges, including battery, perjury and obstruction of justice. The jury also acquitted IMPD officer Nathaniel Schauwecker on four charges, including battery and official misconduct.

After about ten hours of deliberation, the jury could not reach a verdict on one count of battery and one count of official misconduct for both officers.

Horlock and Schauwecker were accused of excessive use of force following the arrests of Indianapolis residents Rachel Harding and Ivoré Westfield. The women were out after an 8 p.m. curfew on May 31, 2020. Video of their arrests shows officers shooting pepper balls at Westfield and striking her multiple times with a baton. Harding is then seen being pushed to the ground by an officer.

Prosecutors argued the officers did not respond in a reasonable way to the women's actions. The arrests reportedly left them with multiple bruises and sore areas.

However, the officer’s attorney, John Kautzman, said the men did what they are trained to do. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said the officers followed policy in their use of force.

In a statement, the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police wrote “the jury was guided by the facts of this case and the law.”

“After 3 and a half years, we believe the residents of Marion County made it clear through this jury, it is time to put this chapter behind us as a community. We must continue to work to improve our police department and now move forward,” the FOP wrote.

Michael Leffler, communications director for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, wrote in an emailed statement: “We are thankful to the grand jurors and the jury for their time and consideration.”

The arrests followed several days of Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Indianapolis, after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Neither woman was charged with a crime. They filed a federal lawsuit against Horlock,  Schauwecker and two other officers, that is pending.

Horlock and Schauwecker have been on administrative leave since the episode.

An attorney for the IMPD officers, John F. Kautzman, previously said the charges against them were driven by a “misguided motivation to criminalize legitimate police action.”

He added that the officers’ actions were consistent with their police training and the law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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