No, that headline is not a typo.
A jury in South Bend, Indiana found that three City of South Bend police officers violated a family’s constitutional rights, and awarded the paltry sum of $1 per officer for the egregious infraction. You may think the violation must not have been very serious, but that’s not the case.
On July seventh, 2012, in the early hours of the morning, at approximately three or four in the morning, Vivian Franklin awakened to pounding on her door. At the door were three City of South Bend police officers, looking for one of Vivian’s sons, Dan Franklin. The officers had weapons drawn, and were shining a flashlight directly in Vivian's eyes. With no warrant, the officers barged into Vivian’s home, and proceeded to assault Vivian’s other son, a high school student, asleep in his bed.
As he screamed for his mother, DeShawn Franklin was punched in the jaw, tased twice and an ambulance reportedly had to be called when one of the taser probes could not be removed from DeShawn’s side. According to the Franklin lawsuit, it reportedly took police two hours to call for EMTs to remove the probe. DeShawn ended up with a swollen jaw and the taser probe injuries.
The three officers, Eric Mentz, Aaron Knepper and Michael Stuk, claim that they had tracked Vivian’s older son to the home, and they had reason to believe he was there, even when Vivian insisted he was not, and DeShawn continued to state he was not the person the police were looking for. During this time, DeShawn remained restrained in the back of a police car, taser probes in his side.
It gets better. Dan Franklin, the one the police were actually looking for, came home while the police were still at the home. They opted not to arrest him. It was apparently important enough to illegally enter a home, but not enough to actually arrest the man they were looking for.
Let’s step back and let that sink in. Police barged into a private residence with no warrant and assaulted a 17-year-old high school student who was the victim of mistaken identity. Then, they didn’t even arrest the right man when they had him.
So, in March of 2013, the Franklin family obviously, and rightly, filed a suit against the officers, as well as the City of South Bend and the major and police chief. The case was recently adjudicated by jurists in a U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne.
The jury found that the Franklin’s family constitutional rights had been violated. The value the jury placed on those rights was only $1. That’s right, a black family’s constitutional rights are worth the paltry sum of one single dollar. A local pastor had this to say:
“I think that’s shocking. I think that’s a travesty of justice. It creates a very difficult environment when you deal with African American people you tell them to trust the system, and this family did all the right things, they did trust the system, and essentially, even though the jury found their rights were violated, the jury didn’t value those rights.”
The jury didn’t value those rights. $1 for having your home violated by police without a warrant. $1 for being awakened as a teenager by a punch to the face. $1 for being tased by the very ones who should be keeping you safe, as you scream for your mom. $1 for the rights of a black family.