East Cleveland, OH – An East Cleveland police officer has been placed on paid leave while the department investigates allegations he repeatedly kicked a suspect in the head during an arrest.
The incident occurred on April 1, 2020 after police stopped a suspect for traffic violations but the bodycam only became public after a public information request from WJW.
The bodycam showed police stopped a 37-year-old Cleveland man after a brief pursuit.
The driver refused to cooperate with police commands so officers broke the car window and dragged him out of his vehicle, the video showed.
Bodycam video showed that once officers had the suspect on the ground, one of the officers walked over to the suspect and stomped on his head at least twice.
Police officials identified East Cleveland Police Officer Nicholas Foti as the officer who kicked the suspect, WJW reported.
Officer Foti was placed on paid administrative leave pending the completion of an internal investigation into allegations of excessive force as dictated by the police union’s collective bargaining agreement.
“This will not be tolerated and I personally was outraged,” East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King told WJW. “Striking a subdued person that, for all intents and purposes, was on the ground and I would say pretty much defenseless.”
East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner said the suspect was not seriously injured during the altercation.
“I know this is completely out of our policy and procedure for an officer to do that, and I believe it to be criminal,” Gardner said.
Chief Gardner told WJW that he has reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice to ask for a federal investigation into Officer Foti’s actions.
The police chief said the investigation by Internal Affairs would take a couple of weeks.
He also said Officer Foti could be facing termination for his actions, WJW reported.
“This type of action does not represent this administration, does not represent this police force and this city,” the mayor said. “It simply will not be tolerated.”
East Cleveland Captain Ken Lundy asked the community to be patient while the police department worked through the steps it needed to follow, WJW reported.
“Despite this disturbing video, I just want people to trust the process,” Capt. Lundy explained. “We have an internal process.”
Two East Cleveland councilmen spoke up in support of the East Cleveland Police Department, WJW reported.
East Cleveland Councilmen Timothy Austin and Ernest Smith it an “outstanding” police force and aid they were glad Chief Gardner had moved quick to investigate the allegations of excessive force.
“I want to commend the police chief for taking immediate action and being in front of what could be a crisis in our community,” Austin said.
Court records showed that the suspect who was stomped in the head was found guilty of misdemeanor traffic offenses and ordered to pay a fine, according to WJW.
You can see the video of the incident below, with the kick around the 1:15 mark. Warning – Graphic Content: