City faces another lawsuit over one officer’s alleged use of excessive force

By: - November 16, 2023 4:00 pm

The city of Toledo, which condemned the actions of a police officer earlier this year, is now being sued for the officer’s alleged use of excessive force. (Phot by Canva; seal courtesy of the City of Toledo)

The city of Toledo is facing another excessive-force lawsuit as a result of the alleged actions of one former police officer.

Earlier this year, Toledo city officials publicly condemned one of its police officers, Kyle Howe, for multiple instances of excessive force. Howe resigned in the midst of an internal investigation that involved a review of various body-camera videos involving several individuals he had arrested.

In September, two separate lawsuits were filed against Howe and the City of Toledo in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, each alleging false arrest, assault, battery, negligent supervision and civil rights violations.

This week, a third lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of 72-year-old Steven Horrigan of Chelsea. The lawsuit alleges that at 10 p.m., on March 21, 2023, Howe pulled over Horrigan in Tama County and cited him for improper rear lamps, driving or towing an unsafe vehicle, and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. All of the citations were later dismissed.

The lawsuit alleges that Horrigan stands 5 feet, 8 inches tall; is frail and hard of hearing; and suffers from terminal Parkinson’s Disease. It claims that body-camera video of the traffic stop shows the initial interaction between Howe and Horrigan up to the point where the officer grabbed Horrigan by his arm.

After that, there is a brief gap in the video-camera recording, which picks up with Horrigan on the ground.

“In this video you can see that Officer Howe has slammed this 72-year-old man to the ground and is on top of him,” the lawsuit alleges. “Officer Howe is yelling, ‘Don’t f—ing fight me,’ while Mr. Horrigan — once again, a 72-year-old man — is saying calmly, ‘I’m not fighting you.’ While Officer Howe is on top of Mr. Horrigan with his knee in Mr. Horrigan’s back, Officer Howe can be heard screaming, ‘You didn’t put your f—ing hands behind your back. Now put your f—ing hands behind your back or you’re gonna get tased.’… Mr. Horrigan’s Parkinson’s and his age did not allow him to put his hands behind his back while pinned to the ground with a large man’s knee on his back.”

The lawsuit alleges that the video shows Horrigan shaking due to his Parkinson’s Disease. “After Mr. Horrigan is in handcuffs, Officer Howe can be heard screaming, ‘Why didn’t you put your hands behind your back?’ Mr. Horrigan responds, ‘I couldn’t hear you,’” the lawsuit says.

After realizing Horrigan was unable to sit in the patrol car with his hands behind his back, Howe allegedly pulled Horrigan out of the car and said, “Are you going to continue to do ridiculous s—?”

The lawsuit alleges “Howe’s actions were reprehensible” and that Horrigan never resisted or interfered in any way with Howe. Attorneys for Horrigan are seeking unspecified damages from Howe and the city for battery, excessive force, false arrest, assault and negligent supervision and training. The city has yet to file a response.

One of the other pending lawsuits involving Howe centers on a traffic stop in March 2023. Body-camera footage allegedly shows Howe telling a woman he had pulled over, “Stop resisting,” and, “Stop fighting or you’re going to get tased,” to which the woman responds, “I’m not doing anything.”

The third pending lawsuit involves a search warrant that Howe and others executed at the home of Lang Leonard of Tama County in February 2023.

Body-camera footage allegedly shows Howe and another officer slamming Leonard face first into the ground. With Howe on top of Leonard’s back, and Leonard’s hands trapped underneath his own body, Howe allegedly can be heard yelling, “Put your hands behind your back!” The lawsuit claims the video captures another officer yelling, “Do you wanna get tased?” and Howe yelling, “Taser, taser, taser!”

“Officer Howe, as he’s tasing Leonard with his full body weight on Leonard’s back, can be heard yelling, “Stop resisting,” the lawsuit alleges. “Leonard was not resisting; he was being assaulted.”

Court records indicate no criminal charges were filed against Leonard in the case.


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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.