The NAACP Dayton Unit said Sunday morning an incident involving a paraplegic Dayton man pulled out of his vehicle during a Sept. 30 traffic stop shows the need for police reforms and more officer training when encountering people with mental health and other disability issues.
Derrick L. Foward, president of the NAACP Dayton unit, said at a news conference that the driver, Clifford B. Owensby Sr., filed a complaint Oct. 4 with the NAACP against the Dayton Police Department, “for profiling him, unlawful arrest and illegal search and seizure of his vehicle. He was not read his rights before taken to jail, that is his complaint for our office.”
“I don’t see where I did anything wrong in this matter,” Owensby, 39, said on Sunday. “I am at a loss for words for what they did to me. It was totally humiliation. It was hatred at its purest fashion. I have never seen or witnessed anything before in my life.”
The Dayton Fraternal Order of Police defended the actions of the officers in a statement issued Friday evening.
“The officers followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures,” Jerome Dix, president of Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #44, said. “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.”
Dayton police also said in a statement the results of the investigation will be shared with the public so that residents can make conclusions based on all evidence. It said that it is committed to transparency and accountability.
Owensby said he was helped into his vehicle on Sept. 30 to take his children to school. He said the car was full and his wheelchair didn’t fit. Owensby said he and one of his younger children then went to run errands and stopped at a property he owns to pick up some cable boxes.
Owensby said he then was stopped by Dayton police in the 1200 block of West Grand Avenue for what he was initially told was dark window tint. After the officers took his license and tested the window, Owensby was told to turn off his engine and eventually told to step out of the vehicle. The officer also tells Owensby that due to his history, which includes drug charges, they were going to get a K-9 to do a free air smell around the vehicle and Owensby must exit the car.
The officer’s body camera video shows that officers telling Owensby they would help him out of the vehicle, and Owensby telling them not to remove him. The driver told officers several times that he was a paraplegic and asked to talk to a supervisor. The officer said he’d call his supervisor after Owensby was out of the car.
One of the officers reached into the vehicle and unbuckled the driver. Owensby said he instinctively grabbed the steering wheel and closed his eyes as they pulled him out of the vehicle by prying his hands free while other officers yanked his hair and his arms.
Owensby said he cried out for help as he was being pulled out. He said he was slammed into the ground and “they basically hurt me.”
“At that time, I could not believe what was going on. I kept yelling for help. The officer grabbed my hair again and he forced my head into the concrete of the street and put his knee on my neck, the other one was grabbing my arm and forcing it behind my back,” Owensby said.
“They dragged me. They dragged me to their vehicle They dragged me like a dog, like trash out of the car,” he said.
Owensby claimed he was never read his rights during his arrest for obstructing official business and resisting arrest, both second-degree misdemeanor offenses. He also received traffic citations for window tint and child restraints.
Cara Zinski-Neace, Dayton police spokeswoman, said as of Thursday police have requested a summons to be issued for the misdemeanor charges. She said the case is being referred to the city prosecutor’s office for consideration because they are misdemeanors.
She also said the officers involved in the traffic stop remain on patrol duty. Zinski-Neace declined further comment and referred the Dayton Daily News to the community briefing that was posted online.
Foward said the officers showed a lack of empathy.
“This was a total disregard for human life. The officers have to be held accountable. Justice will prevail in this case. Due process was not given. The NAACP does not condone illegal activity,” Foward said. “But if a citizen is stopped and not read his rights, there’s a problem with that.”
Owensby has hired legal counsel. The Dayton NAACP will follow the case, Foward said.
The statement from the police department says that the incident was part of a drug investigation and traffic stop. Owensby told the Dayton Daily News there were no drugs or firearms in the vehicle. Dayton police said $22,450 was recovered from the vehicle that a narcotics canine alerted on.
Ed Richter has been a working journalist for 36 years, with the last 32 years working in various capacities covering Butler and Warren counties as a reporter and an editor. An award-winning journalist, Richter covers local news and governments in Warren County focusing on Springboro, Lebanon, Franklin, Carlisle and Waynesville.