Indiana Police Face Lawsuit After Fatally Shooting Man Following Traffic Stop

PORTAGE, Indiana — The city Police Department has been put on notice of a pending lawsuit stemming from the fatal shooting of a man during a traffic stop earlier this year.

Portage police Officer Grant Crizer used excessive force during the April 22 shooting of William Spates, which resulted in the wrongful death of the 39-year-old, according to the tort claim notice filed on behalf of Spates’ son, Stefan Spates, by Portage attorney John Vouga.

“Officer Crizer’s unjustifiable attack against Mr. Spates included the use of a Taser and numerous gunshots to both Mr. Spates’ head and torso,” according to the claim.

The claim goes on to accuse Portage Police Chief Troy Williams of slandering the deceased and his family by issuing a news release following the shooting that was “negligent, reckless, malicious and deliberately indifferent to the rights of Mr. Spates and his family members.”

The statements were published and widely viewed on a social media page maintained by the Police Department, according to the claim. Spates and his family suffered “reputational harm, emotional pain and suffering.”

When asked for a response to the tort claim, Williams said Crizer was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel following an investigation by the Porter County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police.

“That review concluded that our officer acted appropriately and in self-defense,” Williams said.

The tort claim threatens a civil lawsuit, which applies different standards than a criminal case.

Williams said while law enforcement and government agencies often are criticized for not being transparent enough, at least nine news releases were issued in this case by various agencies.

“As I stated before, Mr. Spates’ own actions led to his death,” Williams said.

Crizer shot Spates when he attempted to run over the officer during a traffic stop in the driveway of a home on Royal Avenue, according to police.

Witnesses initially reported hearing the officer yelling commands to the driver, and an engine revving, followed by six to seven shots, according police.

Spates had been released from jail on bond just hours before the shooting. He had been arrested April 19 and accused of battering his wife and two children.

Williams said he is not surprised by the threat of the lawsuit.

“No one wants the suspect to be accountable for their own actions,” he said.

Williams defended the preparedness of his department.

“Our officers receive countless hours of training and continuing education,” he said. “I fully support them and their ability to perform their duties.”