INDIANAPOLIS — A jury determined that the City of Indianapolis must compensate the estate of a woman who died after being restrained by officers in a church five years ago.

The jury entered a judgment this week determining that the city must pay $500,000 to the estate of Eleanor Northington after determining that the city and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department committed battery against Northington while she was in police custody, which ultimately led to her death.

Northington’s estate filed a lawsuit on Jan. 26, 2021, against the city, IMPD and the church where Northington died, contending at the time that the city and IMPD “violat[ed]…Ms. Northington’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights.”

According to previous reports, the incident occurred on Feb. 7, 2019, at Mt. Calvary Apostolic Church when police were called to assist Northington, who members of the congregation described as undergoing a mental health crisis. The church is located at 6635 E. 42 Street.

Northington was attending a church service alongside her daughters, son and son-in-law at the church. Northington was described as being “extremely obese,” and possessing a very long history of mental illness, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said Northington allegedly suffered a psychotic episode during the church service and began “to act belligerently towards members of the choir and the church pastor.”

At one point, Northington left the sanctuary and removed her clothes, according to the lawsuit. Northington then returned to the sanctuary while still being undressed.

Her behavior remained erratic as she allegedly engaged in confrontations with some church members and spit at them before police arrived. At one point, a pastor tried to prevent Northington from spitting by placing a cloth over her mouth, the lawsuit said.

Northington was placed in handcuffs behind her back when IMPD officers arrived. At one point, an altercation broke out and an officer wrestled her to the ground where she was lying on her stomach, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said an officer “placed a knee on Ms. Northington’s back while she was handcuffed face-down.”

The lawsuit noted that the church’s flooring consists of shag carpeting. At one point while she was handcuffed, Northington explained to the officers that she could not breathe, the lawsuit said.

The officers reportedly ignored Northington’s pleas and continued pressing her against the floor, according to the lawsuit.

Northington was taken to an area hospital where she was eventually taken off of life support two days later, the Associated Press reported.

Previous reports indicate police said at the time that they were forced to restrain Northington face down. The lawsuit alleged that Northington’s cause of death was caused by oxygen deprivation and subsequent fatal brain injury.

While her cause of death was initially attributed to a lack of oxygen to the brain, the report did not list it as a homicide and noted that Northington’s obesity and enlarged heart could have contributed to the fatal brain injury.

“IMPD’s use of excessive force, principally handcuffs, wrestling Ms. Northington to the ground on her stomach, “placing a knee in her back,” caused Ms. Northington’s death,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also claimed that Northington’s minor son witnessed the incident. The son’s exact age was not provided.

The lawsuit also alleged at the time that Mt. Calvary Apostolic Church was guilty of negligence by violating its obligation to keep all its parishioners safe when “one of its pastors placed a cloth over Northington’s mouth impeding her airways.”

According to previous reports, IMPD Chief Bryan Roach supported the officers who responded to the call, arguing they did not use excessive force at the time. The officers were not named in the lawsuit.

Roach previously indicated that five officers had been placed on administrative leave after the incident before eventually returning to work after an internal affairs investigation and a criminal investigation reportedly found no violations, Associated Press reported.

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