Police video called ‘kick in the gut;’ city says police investigation could take weeks

Group calls for police to apologize and for officers involved to be suspended and fired.

An internal police investigation into the actions taken by Dayton police officers when they pulled a paraplegic Black man out of a vehicle during a traffic stop could take four to six weeks to complete, the city’s manager said.

City Manager Shelley Dickstein on Wednesday said the city will be transparent through the process on the same day citizens publicly called for police to apologize and for the officers involved to be suspended and fired.

Dickstein said the Professional Standards Bureau investigation will be thorough and will determine if the officers’ actions were consistent with department policies, procedures and training.

“Considering the depth of an investigation of this nature and multi-levels of review, this process can and should take time,” she said. “This is not a quick process because it is a thorough process.”

Clifford Owensby, who was yanked from his vehicle last month in the incident that was caught on video and has gained national attention, attended Wednesday’s city commission meeting as a group of people spoke outside to demand change.

Nine speakers at the commission meeting called on the city’s leaders to take immediate action on the police officers and to implement recommendations made earlier this year from a use-of-force police reform committee.

Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw said the video was disturbing. He asked for the community to be patient as the city works through the process of trying to improve policing.

Commissioner Darryl Fairchild, who is paralyzed, said watching the video was a “kick in the gut.” He said the city must do better, and he thinks “cultural competency” training could help police better understand people with disabilities.

Outside city hall, Owensby’s mother, Caroline Smith, said, “I’m angry and upset, not just for my son but for every Black man, every Black woman.”

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Dayton resident Ari Divine said the officers involved should be suspended until an investigation is completed.

“This is our home where we should feel safe and they’ve taken that from us and tell us to trust in the police that they don’t even police,” Divine said.

Divine expressed frustration that the community is asked to get involved and be part of coalitions but then suggested changes aren’t implemented. She also said the protestors demand a public apology from the officers and Interim Police Chief Matt Carper, and that an independent investigation is completed.

On Sept. 30, Owensby was pulled over by Dayton police in connection with a traffic stop and drug investigation in the 1200 block of West Grand Avenue. Body Camera footage shows officers interacting with Owensby and asking him to exit the vehicle so a K-9 could do a free air smell because of his history which includes weapons and drug charges.

Owensby tells the officers that he is paraplegic and can’t exit the vehicle and an officer says he will assist him out. Owensby tells the officer that there will be a lawsuit if the officer puts his hands on him and asks the officer to call a supervisor. The officer responds by telling Owensby that he will call the supervisor after he is out of the vehicle.

The officers then grabbed Owensby to pull him out of the vehicle. An officer can be seen pulling Owensby by his hair while the other grabs his arm. Owensby is forcibly pulled onto the road and then handcuffed.

Dayton police said $22,450 was recovered from the vehicle that a narcotic canine alerted on.

A police report from the incident cites misdemeanor obstructing official business and misdemeanor resisting arrest in the crime status information. He has not been charged with either count.

He was cited in Dayton Municipal Court with traffic citations child restraint or seat belt and tinted glass. The body camera footage shows officer saw a small child in the back seat of the car.

The local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police released a statement late last week supporting the officers.

They said Owensby was seen leaving a residence where suspected narcotic transactions were being conducted and that the officers were assigned to a specialized unit tasked with reducing violent crime and narcotics in West Dayton.

“The officers followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures,” said Jerome Dix, president of Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 44. “Sometimes the arrest of noncompliant individuals is not pretty, but is a necessary part of law enforcement to maintain public safety, which is one of the fundamental ideologies of our society.”

They said that the officers used the least amount of force needed to remove Owensby.

Meanwhile, national and local civil rights groups have called for the officers to be fired and prosecuted. The city said an internal investigation has been launched and the officers remain on patrol.

Smith said her son had been pulled over in the past and had requested a supervisor. She said the officers in that stop called for their superior and the situation was deescalated and he was allowed to leave.

Daj’za Demmings, who was a member of the Dayton police reform committee focused on use of force, told city commission that she hopes the significant work she put into the police reform process was not a waste of time.

She called on the city and police department to immediately implement the use-of-force committee’s recommendations, some of which seek to de-escalate situations.

Community members volunteered hundreds of hours of their time to research, develop and refine some recommendations on best practices of police use-of-force policies, said Julio Mateo, a member of the training committee and an implementation committee.

The commission has not yet accepted some of the use-of-force committee’s most important recommendations that were submitted more than six months ago, Mateo said.

He said this includes recommendations to require officers to avoid unnecessary use of force and overtly aggressive behavior and use reasonable measures to de-escalate incidents.

After public comment, Mayor Nan Whaley told the audience that the video was incredibly painful to watch.

She said she was glad community members came to share their concerns with the commission --- which prompted someone in the audience to yell out that the city should then fire the officers involved.

Whaley said the city has been transparent and released the body camera video because of ongoing police reform efforts; acquiring and deploying body cameras was one of the recommendations.

But after she said that, Owensby, who was sitting in the front row, shouted out, “You should have put out the truth then. Everybody deserves to see the rest of that video and everything that happened in the back of that cruiser.”

The Dayton Daily News has submitted a request for that video.

As he exited, Owensby yelled out, “I’m out of here. … They wanted to set me up. They wouldn’t listen to me.”

Minutes earlier, Mayor Whaley declared one speaker, Christopher Lockett, out of order, after he continued talking when his time was up. Community members are given three minutes each to address the commission.

Lockett told the commission he and too many other community members have been mistreated by the criminal justice system.

“I personally know this paraplegic man and his family, and I’m telling you now they’re not bad people,” he said. “So there’s no excuse why he was dragged in the streets like the video showed.”

After being declared out of order, Lockett yelled, “Just look at me? Do you see me? Acknowledge me, then.”

Whaley said during her comments that the city’s police reform work is far from over and the city is committed to this work in the long term.

“We are committed to making sure we have a place where people are treated fairly and that everybody in our community is treated with dignity and respect – full stop,” she said.

Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims Jr., who is running for city mayor, said he understands why the community is upset because he is too.

Mims said the city launched the police reform process to try to prevent these kinds of situations. But he said the police reform process helped bring this incident to light.

“When we look at what happened with Mr. Owensby, we would not have this data had it not been for the recommendation from my committee that said, ‘Let’s have body cameras,’” Mims said.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby