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Woman claims mistreatment by Lake County sheriff employees
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Woman claims mistreatment by Lake County sheriff employees

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HAMMOND | In a federal lawsuit filed late Friday afternoon a former Crown Point woman claims she was mistreated following her arrest by Lake County sheriff's employees.

Denise Zencka, now living in Naples, Fla., is suing Lake County, the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff John Buncich, and four unnamed officers. A sheriff's spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.

The lawsuit claims various violations of her civil rights and seeks an unspecified amount of money. It states officers did not have the right to arrest her and that sheriff's employees showed callous disregard for her medical condition, inflicted emotional distress on her and used excessive force. 

Zencka said she was recovering from thyroid cancer and was unable to work from June through September 2012. She said she was staying at her parents' home in Florida and was unaware and/or not able to attend Lake County court proceedings that she said were related to her inability to pay medical bills. When she returned in October, she said she initiated bankruptcy proceedings.

The lawsuit claimed that the bankruptcy filing nullified a bench warrant that had been issued against her related to the earlier court proceedings. Zencka said the Lake County Sheriff's Department was sent notices by her bankruptcy attorney, but no action was taken by the Lake County Sheriff's Department to investigate or remove the warrant.

She said officers arrested her on Jan. 9, 2013, while she was still in her pajamas and in the presence of her three children. She said she was then placed in a large holding cell with several men before being told to climb stairs to a holding cell for females. During this time, the lawsuit claims, Zencka's blood pressure rose to a high level, which concerned her due to her history of  seizures and strokes.

The lawsuit states that after Zencka said she couldn't climb the stairs she was put in a men's mental health unit with glass walls, with a bathroom visible to male inmates. Zencka also was allegedly exposed to lewd "and trauma-inducing" behavior, which included one male inmate who wiped his feces on the wall.

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