Muncie police accused of tossing out dead mother's ashes in raid

Police brass admit officer mistook ashes for drugs

MUNCIE, Ind. - The target of a police raid has filed suit against the Muncie Police Department, saying officers discarded his dead mother’s ashes when they mistakenly believed they had found drugs in his home.

The $1 million lawsuit stems from an October 2011 raid at the Muncie home of Josh Baker, 26, as part of a robbery investigation.

In the lawsuit filed this month in Indianapolis federal court, his attorney writes that police were not supposed to be looking for drugs, but merely looking for evidence in a robbery case.

Baker’s lawsuit claims that police stumbled upon his dead mother’s ashes inside a container described as a velvet bag with a chrome-colored vial.

Prior to the raid, his lawsuit asserts that police were given false information that Baker was "a drug abuser who crushed pills into powder and snorted the powder."

A Muncie Police Department supervisor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Call 6 Investigators that one of his officers did mistakenly believe that he had found drugs in that shiny container. He pointed out that it appeared to contain only some of the mother’s remains, with the rest of her ashes possibly being held in a different container or divided up among other relatives.

He said one officer was disciplined, receiving either a written or verbal reprimand, for his actions in the raid.  The officer later left the department for a different problem that was not related to the raid, the supervisor said.

Baker claims in his lawsuit that Muncie police failed to follow proper police procedure by discarding the contents of the container when they realized that the powder had nothing to do with drugs.

Baker returned home after being taken to Muncie Police headquarters for questioning. He claims he quickly realized that his dead mother’s remains were missing, and his lawsuit spells out that he found some of the ashes floating in rainwater contained in his outdoor trash can. Latex gloves that were worn by police during the raid were also found in the same trash can.

"Mr. Baker no longer has ashes of his deceased mother," his federal lawsuit claims.

He and his attorney declined requests for an interview from the Call 6 Investigators.

Baker claims that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the improper search and seizure and the "destruction of personal property."

His lawsuit further asks for a court to award him money for failing to follow police procedure and inadequate training of officers.

No court hearing has been scheduled in the lawsuit.

Muncie Police Chief Steve Stewart declined to comment. A different chief was leading the department when the raid occurred.

The department referred calls to a local attorney who is defending the city in this case, but he did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Police department and court records show no arrest for Baker in the robbery case that prompted the raid.

Baker no longer lives in the home where the raid occurred. The people now living in the home said they were aware of the raid, but have no connection with the case.

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