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Omaha mother settles lawsuit challenging Thanksgiving arrest

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 2:35 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An Omaha woman has settled a lawsuit against the Omaha Police Department regarding excessive force.

Officers arrived at Makayla Townsell’s home on Thanksgiving Day 2019 to investigate a report of child neglect.

According to the Nebraska ACLU, the lawsuit claims Omaha Police Officer Ryan Keele entered Townsell’s home, threw her to the ground, brandished a taser, and handcuffed and arrested her without probable cause.

Charges against Townsell were dropped afterward and the neglect report was dismissed. Townsell lodged a citizen complaint regarding Officer Keele’s action.

After receiving the complaint, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said he would recommend Officer Keele for discipline.

The Nebraska ACLU represented Townsell during a lawsuit filed roughly two years later in 2021. The lawsuit sought a court determination that her rights were violated.

A settlement was agreed upon Monday. In the settlement, the City of Omaha agrees to provide damages but says the agreement does not serve as an admission that Officer Keele violated Townsell’s rights.

Townsell says the goal of the lawsuit was accountability.

“I wanted accountability and that’s what this agreement feels like to me,” Townsell said. “I hope awareness about what I and my family had to endure helps prevent something like this from happening to anyone else. At this point, I’m focused on moving forward. I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement and I’m grateful to the ACLU of Nebraska for taking up my case.”

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