An attorney for a paraplegic man who was yanked by Dayton police from his vehicle during a traffic stop last month said Monday following his client’s misdemeanor trial he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city.
Clifford Owensby, 39, was found guilty of window tint and child restraint violations in Dayton Municipal Court by visiting judge Patricia Cosgrove. He was ordered to pay $150 fines for each violation.
Dayton Police Officer Wayne Hammock, who was one of two officers that ripped Owensby out of his car during the traffic stop, was questioned on the stand by defense attorney James Willis of Cleveland.
During the traffic stop in question, an 11-minute body camera video shows Hammock and Officer Vincent Carter talking with Owensby and asking him to exit the vehicle. Owensby tells officers that he is paraplegic and cannot exit the vehicle. The video shows the officers and Owensby arguing over him exiting the vehicle — the officers say they will assist him out while Owensby asks the officers to call a supervisor to the scene.
The body camera footage shows officers yanking Owensby by the hair and arm out of the vehicle and onto the road. They handcuff him and put him in the back of a police cruiser. More than $22,000 was found in the vehicle Owensby was driving, police said. He told police that he owns properties and runs businesses.
The traffic stop has received national attention as some have accused the police officers of using excessive force. Multiple protests have been held downtown. The Dayton Fraternal Order of Police has defended the officers saying they conducted the traffic stop by the books.
Cosgrove told the attorneys on both sides that the trial was only to focus on the traffic violations, but did allow Willis some leeway to ask Hammock about the stop and the officers’ decisions during it. Willis focused on the timing of the traffic stop and how long it took officers to write the ticket and when they asked Owensby to get out of the car.
“In other words, the task of writing the ticket was not complete before he was asked to get out of the car?” Willis asked.
“Correct,” Hammock said.
Willis also asked the officer about the dog being called to the scene. He asked him why he called for the dog.
“Because of the area that we were in,” Hammock said. “The high crime and drug area we were in, I requested a canine.”
Hammock said he regularly arrests people in the area for drugs and guns.
“Every day, that’s what I do, my purpose in my job for the spot that I was in is focused on gun and drug crimes,” Hammock said.
Willis finished his line of questioning by asking who opened Owensby’s vehicle door and asked Hammock “Did anyone ever ask you why did you beat up on that man?”
Cosgrove interrupted and did not allow the officer to answer the question.
Willis told reporters outside the courthouse Monday that he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city of Dayton in the near future. He believes that Owensby’s civil rights were violated.
“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...”