FISHERS, Ind. — An Indianapolis family has filed a tort claim notifying the City of Fishers of its intention to file a civil rights lawsuit against the Fishers Police Department after accusing an officer of holding a Black couple at gunpoint due to racial profiling.
New father Malcom Bunnell took to Facebook to tell his side of the story in a viral post that accused Fishers police of pulling him and his girlfriend over at gunpoint while their baby daughter was in the car.
Bunnell and his attorney allege that the traffic stop was the result of a road rage incident in which a man, later identified as Dustin J. Martin, harassed Bunnell and his family in a Walmart parking lot before falsing informing police that Bunnell had a gun.
Fishers police recently arrested Martin and charged him with one count of false informing and one count of resisting law enforcement.
Fishers police stated that officers were called to the Walmart parking lot on April 21 due to reports of a physical altercation. According to the police report, officers located Dustin Martin who told officers that he had been one of the people involved in the physical altercation.
Martin reportedly told officers that he had just been attempting to shop at Walmart but said Bunnell wouldn’t leave him alone. Martin told officers Bunnell had a gun and left in a white Cadillac Escalade.
At least twice, Martin accused Bunnell of having a gun, according to the police report.
The Fishers police officer claimed that he told Martin to stay put while he went after the white Cadillac and performed a “high risk traffic stop.”
Police gave no additional details or specifics about the traffic stop other than confirming that no gun was found in Bunnell’s Cadillac.
The officer returned to the Walmart parking lot to discover that Martin had left the area.
Police were eventually able to track down Martin where he was arrested for resisting arrest, due to leaving the scene, and false informing, due to no gun being found in Bunnell’s vehicle despite Martin’s repeated claims.
The tort notice points out the difference in the “peaceful investigation” of Martin, who is white, as compared to the alleged gunpoint traffic stop of Bunnell and his family, who are Black.
“This is a clear case of biased-based profiling,” said Faith Alvarez, the attorney representing Bunnell and his family.
While the police report states that officers were led to believe that Bunnell was potentially armed due to Martin’s repeated claims of a gun, Bunnell’s attorney argues the “violent arrest” of Bunnell and his girlfriend in the presence of their baby daughter was excessive and an example of profiling.
“They proceeded to let him go on about his day while they hunted me down in the middle of traffic,” Bunnell recalled in his viral post detailing the encounter.
“Their response was hey you gotta see if from our point of view, he said you had a gun,” Bunnell went on. “The man that had just harassed me for 20 min and ya’ll let (him) drive off and enjoy his day. I’m so upset, disgusted, and disappointed.”
Alvarez pointed out in the tort notice that not only did Bunnell not have a gun, but added that, “merely having a gun is not suspicion of a crime. The Indiana General Assembly has made it very clear in recent years that Hoosiers should possess firearms.”
The Fishers Police Department stated it could not provide additional details about the traffic stop conducted on Bunnell due to the tort claim notice.