Federal lawsuit filed over man's death in Fond du Lac Police custody

Christopher Cary taken into custody by Fond du Lac police officers on Dec. 23, 2018 (Screenshot of Fond du Lac Police Dept. dashcam video)

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY) - A federal lawsuit has been filed against the City of Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac Police, and paramedics over the death of a man in police custody.

The suit was filed April 8 by the Estate of Christopher L. Cary. The special administrator of the estate is Cary's daughter, Braelyn.

Christopher Cary died December 23, shortly after a traffic stop near the intersection of Division Street and Main Street. He was stopped for not having his license plate properly displayed.

Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney said Cary swallowed cocaine in an attempt to avoid being caught with the drug. Toney said Cary died from "acute cocaine toxicity."

CLICK HERE for coverage of the DA's findings in the case.

The officers involved in the traffic stop -- identified as Officer Sandra O'Connell; Officer Brandon Meudt; and Officer Trenton Smith -- were placed on administrative leave after the incident. They returned to duty on Jan. 10.

The officers are named in the lawsuit. The suit states that it should've been a routine traffic stop, but Officer O'Donnell "unconstitutionally extended the scope of the stop" for an "unrelated narcotics investigation." The suit claims that Cary's rights were violated due to an unreasonable search and seizure.

CLICK HERE to read the lawsuit.

DA Toney said the officer who stopped Cary requested backup because the driver had a long criminal history and an open court case on cocaine charges. A K-9 alerted on Cary's car.

Toney said police searched Cary and found he was carrying $626 but didn't find any evidence of drugs. An officer did find torn plastic sandwich bags in the storage area of the driver's door with residue of a white rock resembling crack cocaine. It was later tested by the state Crime Lab and was positive for cocaine.

Cary was placed into a squad and started foaming at the mouth and seizing, according to the lawsuit. It claims the officers failed to call for help or drive him to a hospital. The suit states that the officers "stood and watched" as Cary suffered a medical crisis.

The complaint also says paramedics failed to assist Cary.

The estate accuses the officers of violating Christopher Cary's constitutional rights by causing his death.

The suit also claims that the defendants conspired to deprive Cary of his Constitutional rights.

The Cary Estate is asking for a judge to rule in its favor and order compensation for damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages.

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