Kokomo resident Roger McConnell has contended all along that city officials never followed the proper legal process when they came onto his property in 2004.

Now he’s suing Mayor Matt McKillip and six other city employees over the cleanup operation that put him in jail briefly and removed more than 50 inoperable vehicles and tons of debris from his property at 2110 S. LaFountain St.

City crews moved onto McConnell’s property on Election Day 2004, perhaps the one city work day of the year when McConnell, who had previously fought and beat a city plan commission cleanup order, wouldn’t have access to a court.

When the crews showed up, fronted by city building inspector Steve Barnett and Kokomo police, McConnell reportedly waved a homemade weapon and was promptly tazered and hauled off to jail.

That, said McConnell’s attorney, Dan May, was a gross violation of his client’s civil rights.

May also contends the city never had permission to come onto the 2110 S. LaFountain St. property in the first place.

A city abatement notice, signed March 24, 2004, was directed at 2100 S. LaFountain, the vacant lot along Boulevard Street, next to McConnell’s home. All the debris and cars were removed from McConnell’s property at 2110 S. LaFountain St., May contends. The city’s Board of Works and Safety approved the action the day before, according to the lawsuit.

McConnell, who originally faced a felony intimidation charge, escaped serious punishment when the Howard County Prosecutor’s Office allowed him into a pretrial diversion program.

In February, he was directed to pay $432 in fines and fees and will have his record wiped clean if he stays out of legal trouble for two years.

Deputy Prosecutor Julie Pottenger said the fact McConnell had no prior criminal history was one of the factors that led her to recommend leniency.

“Largely I was concerned about ... I’m not sure how to say it exactly ... Mr. McConnell has some issues, but he doesn’t have any prior criminal history,” Pottenger said. “We thought the counseling aspect, and the fact he could be monitored, would work as a better resolution.”

In his lawsuit, McConnell contends financial loss, physical and emotional pain and suffering, damages to his real estate and “a total loss of certain of his personal property.”

May said the case presents a possible precedent, in that there is no clear ruling as to whether an individual is allowed to use “deadly force” to defend personal property against intrusion by a government official. May said the law does, however, firmly establish that an individual may not use force against a police officer.

In addition to McKillip, McConnell also names the three members of the board of works and two police officers as defendants. No hearing date has been scheduled for the lawsuit, which was filed in Howard Circuit Court.

Scott Smith may be reached at (765) 454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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