Ind. teachers hit by pellets in training drill sue police

The suit alleges deputies used excessive force by shooting at teachers with airsoft guns during an active shooter drill

white county sheriff's office.jpg

The lawsuit claims deputies from the White County Sheriff’s Office used excessive force during an active shooter simulation drill.

Photo/White County Sheriff’s Office

By Associated Press

MONTICELLO, Ind. — A group of teachers at a northern Indiana elementary school who were struck and injured last year by plastic pellets during an active shooter training drill are suing local police, accusing them of using excessive force during what the lawsuit calls the “Execution Style Drill.”

The federal lawsuit, filed last week by eight teachers who taught at Meadowlawn Elementary School in Monticello at the time of the January 2019 incident, names as defendants the White County Sheriff’s Department, four deputies and the department’s current and former sheriff.

It claims the deputies shot at the teachers with airsoft guns, striking them the plastic pellets that left bruising, bleeding, welts, and broken skin, and also subjected them to “verbal threats, expletives, and screaming.”

Two of the eight teachers said they left teaching after the incident, which attracted national attention months later when the Indiana State Teachers Association testified about before Indiana’s Legislature during a committee meeting. One of them was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and continues to take prescription medication, the suit states.

“For each Plaintiff, the Execution Style Drill was one of the most terrifying experiences of her life. Immobilized by fear and the physical force of the bullets pinning them down, participants could not turn around. Doing so would have exposed them to shots in the face and shots at even closer range,” according to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Lafayette.

The complaint, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, claims officers used excessive force, committed assault and battery, intentionally inflicted emotional distress and subjected teachers to unreasonable seizure and false imprisonment.

It states that on Jan. 4, 2019, teachers arrived at the school in Monticello, about halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis, anticipating a professional development day. They were instead separated into small groups and told by sheriff’s deputies to line up facing a wall and kneel.

An officer then shot the teachers across their backs at “point-blank range” as officers yelled threats and expletives at them, one officer yelling “I’m going to kill you all!” the suit contends.

Later that day, it contends the teachers were subject to a series of drills in which they were instructed to hide in classrooms, try to barricade doors from potential intruders and to throw tennis balls at the officers. During those drills, officers also shot the teachers with the airsoft guns.

Eight teachers out of about 35 that were present for the training have signed on to the lawsuit, The Indianapolis Star reported.

White County’s attorney, George Loy, said Wednesday that the county does not comment on pending litigation.

The Indiana State Teachers Association, which represents the involved teachers, said it wants to prevent other teachers from enduring a similar incident.

“We do not believe that a school or trainer should conduct any kind of active shooter training drill that includes the firing of any type of projectile at an employee or a student,” said ISTA President Keith Gambill.

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