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'We want his dignity restored': Family settles in wrongful death suit against Greenwood PD

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Posted at 5:12 PM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 20:58:21-04

GREENWOOD — "I just don't know why we had to go through all of this. There were clearly so many other things that could have been done," Teresa Todero said.

Teresa Todero misses her son, Charles, better known to her as Charlie.

"When I found out this happened to Charlie, everything just came crashing down and I am just now trying to get back to where I was," Todero said. "It's hard to go back without your loved one."

Teresa's life changed on May 29, 2016, after a 911 call for help about her son came in.

The caller advised Charlie Todero was attempting suicide through traffic.

Little did she know this would lead her to a wrongful death lawsuit.

Lieutenant Brian Blackwell with the Greenwood Police Department was the first to answer the call.

"I bet I hit him with 15-20," said Blackwell. "Five seconds minimum."

The lieutenant told another officer he just tased Todero 15 to 20 times.

Blackwell did not have a body camera, because lieutenants with Greenwood PD aren't required to wear them.

In another officers body camera video, you can hear the following exchanges:

"You want medic here?" an unnamed backup officer asked Blackwell.

"Yeah," said Blackwell.

Blackwell: "Stay down or you're gonna get it... stay down."

Todero: "Oh my God."

Todero: "My first name is son of Jesus Christ Sons of Almighty God.

Blackwell claims Todero was walking through traffic holding a bible and didn't listen to his commands.

That bible was recently given to him following the recent passing of his father.

"He was looking for comfort and to find a way to learn how to deal with this loss. It was quite a shock to Charlie," Teresa Todero said. "In his mind, he was very in tune with his feeling about God, what the family bible meant and that's all he had coming home and he was not letting go of that. It's all he had to hang onto."

Fast forward to the hospital where Todero is being treated.

Blackwell told doctors that he tased him from behind, that a prong didn't stick, and Todero kept resisting.

Lt. Blackwell's taser log shows it was deployed 16 times within 98 seconds during that call.

Some of the shots were fired less than a second apart.

Most lasted five seconds each.

Three were at least ten seconds.

The temperature from the shock peaked at 93 degrees Fahrenheit during the tases.

"It doesn't seem humane," said his brother, Aaron Crowe.

As Charlie Todero is handcuffed near the curb body camera footage shows officers believed Todero was on drugs.

The following exchange between Lt. Blackwell and an unnamed female officer can be heard in the body camera video:

Blackwell: "Charlie, talk to me it's Blackwell. Charlie, did you take bath salts or something? Some spice? What did you take so we can fix you and you can go home after the hospital ok."

Unnamed female officer: "Slow down. Slow down. Breathe deep. He's going to start hyperventilating soon."

Blackwell: "Worst he is going to do is pass out."

Unnamed female officer: "I hope."

Blackwell: "Nothing on him. I went through his pockets."

Unnamed female officer: "Roll over so we can get those prongs out of your back."

Blackwell: "Well just let the medics do it."

Unnamed female officer: "Well he needs to roll over."

Blackwell: "Well he's fine. He's got great breathing."

A prong from the taser was too deep in his back to safely be taken out by medics on scene.

While first responders worked to get Todero to a hospital, it's comments made by Lt. Blackwell while Todero is lying on the ground that the family says was a punch in the gut.

Blackwell: "Charlie you're making me and these guys miss the 500 damn it."

Todero: "Help me."

Blackwell: "I should've taken the 10-50. He's gonna be sore in the morning I'll tell you that much."

While Todero is lying on a hospital bed, connected to machines another officer jokes to her partner about dissecting him.

There are also text messages between officers joking about meeting Jesus.

Medical records show Charlie Todero went into cardiac arrest while in the ambulance.

Doctor Chris Hartman assures Greenwood police, that the tases didn't cause this.

"I just want to make sure you know how all this (expletive) goes down in the media, I just want to make sure you guys you all are completely covered that the tasing is over here and the cardiac arrest is over here," Dr. Hartman said.

Todero was in the hospital for two weeks before dying.

The Marion County Coroner's Office listed his cause of death as complications of multi-organ system failure.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in June of 2016 and was settled for $2 million this year.

Medical expert testimony used in court, blames the repeated taser shocks triggered medical problems causing Todero's body to shut down.

A law enforcement expert says the use of the taser was excessive.

"Officer Blackwell had enough time to stop tasing Charlie," Teresa Todero said. "He had enough time to make a decision as help arrived and he chose to keep tasing Charlie and the officers on the scene they too had a choice. They knew what they were seeing."

"Do you feel that they failed protocol," asked WRTV's Rachael Wilkerson.

"I feel that they failed in their protocol in many many ways," Teresa Todero said. "A lot of different things could've happened that day. A little more compassion, a little bit more investigating on what happened."

Since it was a suicide call that went out, the family says Greenwood police gravely dropped the ball.

"Charlie didn't have the help that he should've received. In fact, he got the opposite, and that's not how you save somebody," Teresa Todero said.

She's hoping her family can move forward.

Indiana State Police ran into Todero the day before the Greenwood police incident.

They too had a call about Todero walking in the street with his bible.

Instead, they found him to be of no harm and dropped him off at a church.

WRTV reached out numerous times to the Greenwood Police Department for a response and to find out if its taser or use of force policy has changed since this 2016 incident, but did not get a response.