City of Lafayette: Officer’s actions in wheelchair incident ‘legally justified’ but not condoned

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By Aishah Hasnie

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Sept. 24, 2014)-- While the City of Lafayette tried to fire a police lieutenant for shoving a man in a wheelchair, it said his actions were “legally justified.”

The statement was made at the end of a response to a lawsuit filed by Nicholas Kincaid. He was in a wheelchair when, then a lieutenant, Officer Thomas Davidson pushed him and his wheelchair over. Davidson said he took that action, because Kincaid ran over his foot while being questioned. A video of the incident, released by the City, caused a public outcry and led to Davidson’s demotion.

Kincaid filed a lawsuit against Davidson and the City, alleging he was caused harm. However, the City claims it did nothing illegal.

“We believe his conduct was totally inappropriate for a police officer, but we don’t believe there is a civil liability on the City,” said Edward Chosnek, an attorney for the City but not the counsel on this legal fight.

In the written response, the City’s counsel said:

“Lt. Davidson’s actions were legally justified by the need to use reasonable physical force” and “were legally justified as reasonably necessary to defend himself or others.”

When asked what that meant, Chosnek responded “That is language from our special counsel that’s handling the lawsuit. You’d have to ask him what he means by that.”

FOX59 reached out to the special counsel, Wayne Uhl, who responded:

“I respectfully decline to comment on the legal defenses that we raised in our answer for the City, which I think speak for themselves.”

Lafayette’s Mayor and Police Chief also declined to comment.

Chosnek said the bottom line is that in no way would the City ever defend what Davidson did that day.

“The fact that we are defending the lawsuit in terms of legal liability does not mean that we condone what Officer Davidson did,” he explained. “Officer Davidson is being sued himself. He has his own counsel and he will defend himself.”

You can read the City's full response to Kincaid's lawsuit here: Lafayette_Response