Dayton, OH – Dayton police announced on Monday that investigation into officers’ use of force against a paraplegic suspect whom they pulled from his car by his dreadlocks did not violate any department policies.
The incident occurred on Sept. 30, 2021 after Dayton police officers stopped Clifford Owensby’s vehicle after they observed him driving away from a known drug house, NPR reported.
Dayton Police Major Brian Johns said in a statement that officers called for a Narcotics Detection K-9 unit to do a “free-air” sniff of the vehicle for drugs based on Owensby’s past felony drug and weapons history, CNN reported.
“Dayton Police Department policy requires the occupants of the vehicle to exit for their own safety and safety of the K-9 officer to perform this free-air sniff,” Maj. Johns explained.
Bodycam video from the incident showed an officer told Owensby he would have to get out of the vehicle while the K9 searched the car and the driver told them he couldn’t.
“I cannot step out,” Owensby said in the video. “I’m a paraplegic.”
The officer told the driver that officers would help him out of the car but Owensby said he didn’t want to be touched and requested that a police supervisor be called to the scene, CNN reported.
The video showed the officer told Owensby he would call a supervisor after he got out of the car.
“So you can cooperate and get out of the car, or I will drag you out of the car. You see your two options here?” the officer told Owensby in the video.
Bodycam video showed Owensby repeatedly yelled at the officer that he was going to hurt him.
When he refused to allow officers to help him out of the vehicle, the bodycam showed an officer reached in and grabbed Owensby by the arm and dragged him from the vehicle.
Then the video showed an officer grabbed Owensby by the hair and dragged him onto the pavement and then pinned him to the ground.
“They dragged me to their vehicle like a dog, like trash. It was total humiliation,” Owensby told reporters at a press conference in October of 2021.
Video showed that the two officers hoisted him up under his arms and dragged him to the police vehicle.
Maj. Johns said that the paraplegic man was taken to the hospital and examined for possible injuries and released.
Police searched Owensby’s vehicle and found $22,450 inside it, CNN reported.
He told police the money was his savings, CNN reported.
The police report showed Owensby was charged with obstructing official business and resisting arrest, NPR reported.
But Dayton Municipal Court Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove only found Owensby guilty of window tint and child restraint violations and fined the driver $150 for each count, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Owensby’s attorney, James Willis, announced plans to file a civil lawsuit after his client was sentenced.
“It’s against the law to drive with tinted windows, nobody disputes that. When you put a kid in the car there is a certain type of seat you’re supposed to put him in and if you don’t put him in that seat, you should be punished,” Willis said. “We have no problems with that and he’s prepared to pay his fine. But that’s not an invitation for you to beat him up. The man’s a paraplegic…”
Dayton Police Chief Kamran Afzal released the results of the internal investigation on Jan. 10 and explained that neither officer had violated the police department’s use-of-force policy when they arrested Owensby, WYSO reported.
Activists had demanded an apology from the police but Chief Afzal said that wasn’t the right solution to the problem.
“We want to people to, if you have an issues with what our officers behavior, you have so many different ways in the city to make a complaint,” the recently-sworn in police chief told reporters. “Don’t make a scene at that time because the law of the land gives the officer in the United States ability to effect that stop.”
Chief Afzal said the officers had violated the Dayton Police Department’s bodycam video policy when they shut off their cameras after they put Owensby in the back of a police vehicle, WYSO reported.
He said the officers had been giving a memorandum of training for stopping the cameras and said he had requested a review of bodycam training and policies.
The police chief said he planned to work with the city’s legal department to make changes to the policies as needed, WYSO reported.
“This department will continue to look for ways to improve officer training,” Chief Afzal said. “Continuing education in this profession is not only required but imperative to ensure we are equipped to deliver the service of public safety to all those who live and work in Dayton.”
He also said that Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) training had been scheduled for all of the officers and that an attorney would be hired to help monitor the department’s compliance.
Newly-sworn Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims, Jr. wasn’t happy with any of it, WYSO reported.
“We can do better, and I am committed to continuing that work in Dayton and working to strengthen the community-police relationship,” Mims said in a statement.