A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in United States District Court on behalf of three Terre Du Lac Association residents who were arrested after an incident that occurred at the association office last month.
Susan “Suzi” Kwon, Constance “Connie” Cathcart, and Sharon Cathcart are the three plaintiffs named in the civil suit filed by their attorney, J. Matthew Belz, against five defendants including members of the Terre Du Lac Police Department, an association resident, and the Terre Du Lac Association Inc.
Terre Du Lac Police Officer Joshua Sadler, Captain Christopher Callender, and Chief Timothy Cook are the police personnel named as defendants in the lawsuit petition. Association resident Herman Reiser and the Terre Du Lac Association Inc. are the other two defendants named in the suit.
The suit alleges damages were incurred by the three plaintiffs as a result of the June arrest at the association office and alleges that the arrest was unlawful and without cause or merit.
The suit also claims the plaintiffs endured damages including humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, harm to their reputations, and negative references in their arrest records.
The suit further alleges that the defendants committed unlawful actions which have subjected the plaintiffs to ridicule and unwanted negative exposure in the news and social media.
According to the recall of events in Tuesday’s filing, on the morning of June 6, Kwon communicated electronically with two association board members - Adam Hector and Mike Miller - stating her intention to convene the Terre Du Lac Events Committee meeting at the association board room, where the Events Committee meetings were normally held.
In the early afternoon, Kwon, Connie and Sharon Cathcart, along with Debra Whitener, another association member, arrived at the association office and asked the staff there if it would be alright for them to use the board room. According to the complaint, Tammy Reeves, an employee of the association, stated her approval and said she needed only to remove some papers from the table.
The complaint goes on to state that the four women entered the board room and proceeded to draw up plans for the Terre Du Lac Fourth of July parade when, after about 30 minutes, Reiser, a Terre Du Lac resident who “at all relevant times has had no official capacity with the Terre du Lac Association, Inc.,” opened the door and barged into the room.
Reiser allegedly told the four women that they were not supposed to be in the building behind locked doors where there was financial information. He was reportedly referring to the stipulations of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) placed against Association Board Member Cary Combs by fellow Association Board Member Michael Tilley in which it was ordered that neither Combs nor any agent for him could be in the association offices where financial documents are kept. Kwon has been known to work with Combs, however, the TRO was not in force at the time of the incident, according to court documents.
The court documents state Reiser further threatened that if they did not leave, he was going to call the police to which Kwon responded by asking Reiser if he wanted to join the committee, the complaint alleges.
Shortly after Reiser showed up at the meeting room, the complaint states that Sadler entered the room. Kwon asked Sadler if the door had been locked and he allegedly said, “No ma’am, it was not.”
Callender then entered the room and directed that all four women leave the building. When the women asked why they had to leave, he responded that “it does not matter why” and refused to give an explanation. The conversation got heated. Whitener reportedly stated that she wished to leave without being arrested and exited the offices. The other three women remained in the room.
The suit claims that Sharon repeatedly told Callender that she was leaving but he responded, “You had plenty of chances before,” and "roughly cuffed" her, squeezing the cuff too tight. The documents further state she recoiled in pain and ended up on the ground, where Callender attached the other cuff. Connie had just had major shoulder surgery, and she pulled her arm back, saying “Stop,” the suit further claims. Callender responded by "roughly grabbing" her arm to cuff her and he and Sadler then "dragged" her down the stairs to the police station area.
While still at the Terre Du Lac police station, Kwon and Sharon asked multiple times for water, but Callender refused, according to the complaint. Medical attention was requested multiple times as Sharon’s wrist continued to bleed. At one point, a wet paper towel and a dry paper towel were provided.
Kwon reportedly stated that Sharon’s wound needed to be cleaned and bandaged but Callendar allegedly ignored the requests. Kwon could not leave the bench, so she extended her foot far enough to kick the door two times. The officers did not respond, so she called out, “[Sharon] needs medical attention, she’s still bleeding!”
The complaint states that after two more kicks against the door, Callender opened it and asked if Sharon needed an ambulance. Kwon said Sharon just needed the wound cleaned and dressed with a bandage to stop the bleeding but Callender said they did not have those supplies, according to the suit.
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After more bleeding, an ambulance was requested. The suit states that someone came and used saline on Sharon’s bleeding wound and bandaged both wrists, at which point she said she didn’t need an ambulance.
The three women were transferred to the St. Francois County Jail. After several hours, Kwon, Connie, and Sharon were released by St. Francois County authorities without being charged and without having to post bond.
The lawsuit alleges two federal law violation allegations and one allegation of violation of state law.
The first federal claim is an allegation that the three women’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they were “wrongfully detained, handcuffed, searched, arrested, forcibly transported and confined.”
The second federal claim is that the three plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated also as a result of the women being “wrongfully detained, handcuffed, searched, arrested, forcibly transported and confined.”
The third claim alleges the defendants violated state law by participating and encouraging False Imprisonment of the plaintiffs.
All five defendants named in this lawsuit are being sued individually in their different capacities.
The suit states that Sadler, Callender, and Cook are being sued individually and in their official capacity and, at all times relevant to the complaint, acted under color of law.
The suit also states that Reiser, at all times relevant to the complaint, was jointly engaged in coordination, concert, and conspiracy with the other defendants to deprive the plaintiffs of their constitutional and other legal rights.
Lastly, the suit states that the Terre Du Lac Police Department is part of Terre Du Lac Association, Inc. and that Sadler, Callender, and Cook were employed by the association and acting within the course and scope of their employment which brings the association into the lawsuit.
Sought by the lawsuit is for the plaintiffs to be awarded actual and compensatory damages from the defendants. The plaintiffs are also seeking compensation for punitive and exemplary damages as allowed by law.
Finally, the plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for the costs associated with filing this civil action, as well as reasonable attorney fees and expert witness, and any further relief as the court deems proper and just.
As of Wednesday afternoon, no hearings had been set in this matter.
Days after the arrest, Tilley filed an affidavit in court stating the staff believed the TRO was still in full force and that the women were considered associates of Combs and subsequently not allowed to be in the office. As a result of this assumption, staff members contacted the police.
Tilley's affidavit goes on to state that Officer Sadler with the Terre Du Lac Police Department arrived from the lower floor of the association office and approached the four women asking them to leave. The affidavit states that the women were verbally abusive to the officer and refused to leave.
The affidavit then states that because the women refused to vacate the premises, Sadler called for assistance and Captain Callender responded. Sadler and Callender repeatedly asked the women to leave and warned them that they would be charged with trespassing if they did not comply. Whitener reportedly stated that she wished to leave without being arrested and exited the offices.