A man who was handcuffed in his own home at gunpoint after Monona police responded to a neighbor’s call about a Black man on the porch has a filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and two officers.
Keonte Furdge, 23, and a friend had just moved into their high school football coach’s mother’s house. She had recently passed away, and the coach said Furdge and his friend could stay there for two months.
A woman unfamiliar with the arrangement called police after she saw Furdge sitting on the front patio around 11 a.m. on June 2.
According to the suit:
Furdge had gone inside and was in a bedroom when Monona officer Jared Wedig arrived. Officer Luke Wunsch arrived next. The two entered the home without knocking or announcing their presence, without calling the owner or getting a warrant and with guns drawn until shouting, “Police, come out with your hands up.”
Furdge did, was handcuffed and asked what was going on.
By then, more officers had arrived and had learned from another neighbor that Furdge was living at the house with permission. Wedig and Wunsch released Furdge and said “sorry to ruffle your feathers this morning,” but that there had been a misunderstanding.
“This lawsuit seeks to establish that this was more than a misunderstanding,” reads the complaint filed in federal court in Madison. “It seeks to vindicate the violation of Keonte Furdge’s constitutional rights.’
“It seeks to effect change through punitive damages by punishing the Defendants for their egregious conduct with the hope that the punishment is significant enough to prevent this from happening again in the future, so that a person can move into a formerly vacant house in the City of Monona and sit on his front porch without having to fear that the police will break in and shoot him.”
City Attorney Bill Cole said the city has been abundantly transparent about the incident, and has posted the dispatch radio traffic and body camera video on the city’s website, and also hired a former police chief in Dane County to review it and determine whether protocols were properly followed. He declined to discuss the lawsuit’s claims.
“It’s in the courts now. We’ll tender it over to our insurance company,” Cole said.
Wedig’s body cam video shows he does say “Police department” and “anyone here” when he first opens the door. There is no immediate response. Then after a voice is heard somewhere inside, Wedig says, “You want to come out here?”
A voice is heard from somewhere in the house again, and Wedig says, “What’s that?” then radios for anyone close by to come to the location.
Furdge later explains he was on the phone in the other room while Wedig was calling out.
According to the suit, the neighbor on Arrowhead Drive called police on a non-emergency line and asked that they check out a suspicious African American next door and described what he was wearing.
Wedig entered the house first and when he heard a voice, drew his gun and waited in the doorway for Wunsch. Then they quietly approached the room where they could hear a voice and announced their presence.
As soon as Furdge walked out, Wunsch seemed to recognize him. After he was handcuffed, Furdge asked why he was being detained. Wedig explained that a neighbor knew the owner had died and worried someone had broken in.
Wedig removes the handcuffs after one minute.
Before the officers left, Wedig said he’d tell other neighbors Furdge and his friend were legitimate residents at the house, “so this crap doesn’t happen again.”
Wunsch apologized. “I am glad it was you and I recognized you versus somebody who I didn’t know, but, ah, that is still not, nobody wants that interaction.”
Later that day, Monona Police Chief Walter Ostrenga issued a news release that stated, “Following protocol, believing this was possibly a burglary to a residence, [the officers] entered the house with guns drawn.”
The suit makes claims for unlawful entry, false arrest, excessive force and failure to intervene, and to hold the city liable for Wedig’s and Wunsch’s actions. It seeks unspecified damages for bodily injury, pain, suffering, mental distress, humiliation,
loss of liberty and related expenses.
Furdge is represented by John Bradley and Rick Resch of Strang Bradley in Madison.