Police investigation clears Dayton, Ohio, officers who pulled the black paraplegic man out of the car


The traffic stop on September 30 was captured on police body-worn camera footage and released by Dayton City officials about a week after the incident and subsequently went viral. The video shows one of two officers grabbing the driver, Clifford Owensby, in his dreadlocks while Owensby shouted, “I’m a paraplegic bridge!”

Owensby lodged a complaint with the Professional Standards Bureau of the Dayton Police Department (DPD).

The two officers involved were acquitted by the department in connection with the allegations of excessive use of force and not having read Owensby his Miranda rights. The report also stated that Owensby’s allegations that officers threatened and mocked him were “unfounded”.
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The officer’s “pulling Mr. Owensby’s hair may have been visually offensive to some people, but in reality, the hair pulling was at the low end of the power spectrum and did not cause injury,” investigators found. “Mr. Owensby was removed to Grandview Medical Center, where it was confirmed he was not injured during the incident.”

The police department’s investigation accused the two officers of dimming their body-worn cameras during parts of the stop, accusing one of making a sarcastic remark to another officer caught on a supervisor’s body-worn camera.

The report also recommended that the City of Dayton Law Department and the Police Department’s General Advocate and Training Bureau conduct reviews to determine whether policies should be changed or education updated. There was no policy in place at the time of the traffic stop that was about “how to best transport a disabled item,” the review said.

The police department updated its orders in November to clarify best practices in dealing with disabled items.

A lawyer for Owensby said the Dayton Police Department’s audit recommendations did not go far enough by suggesting that further training could be appropriate for officers when interacting with people with disabilities.

“I always advocate for or more training,” said James Willis, Owensby’s attorney. But in this case, he believes the officers should have been fired.

“I think the officers should be fired,” Willis said. “They are really incompetent.”

The city’s mayor, Jeffrey J. Mims, issued a statement Tuesday says residents “should feel treated with dignity and respect, and I know the incident between (Owensby) and Dayton Police did not live up to that standard.”

It is not clear from the mayor’s statement whether new policies would have addressed the officers’ interaction with Owensby.

The driver told police he was paraplegic

Owensby was stopped by officers after a detective in the drug department told them a white Audi had been parked outside a “drug indictment for a ‘long time,’” according to the DPD report.

The two officers pulled over the car for a suspected window stain violation and asked Owensby to get out so a dog could sniff around the vehicle for drugs. The department’s review of the stop found that officers had reason enough to stop the car for its window color and were within the law and policy of ordering Owensby out of the vehicle.

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Owensby told officers he could not get out of the car because he is paraplegic. Officers offered to help him, “when someone else helped you get into the vehicle,” according to the report. The video shows Owensby telling officers not to touch him and he asks for a superior. An officer responds by saying he wants to call his superior, but Owensby needs to get out of the car first.

The police department’s review found that the officer who later pulled Owensby off his dreadlocks from the car had offered to help Owensby out of the car three times, and that Owensby admitted in his written complaint that he “grabbed the steering wheel to prevent officers from removing him. from the vehicle. ”

“The purpose of the officers’ actions was twofold; to remove Mr. Owensby from his vehicle and to handcuff him. To that end, the officer’s actions succeeded,” the report said. “Minimal force, in the form of wrestling and pulling, was used to remove Mr. Owensby from his vehicle and to ease the handcuffs. When Mr. Owensby was handcuffed, the physical encounter stopped.”

The review also said that the slight delay in requesting a supervisor was “reasonable” given the circumstances, and acquitted the officer in connection with this allegation.

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“The slight delay in (the officer) contacting his superior was reasonably based on Mr. Owensby’s obstructive behavior,” the report states. “Therefore, the (officer) (acquitted) regarding him is not to immediately contact a supervisor at Mr. Owensby’s request.”

Owensby claimed in a written statement and in statements to a supervisor of improper use of force that officers beat him, that they threatened to take him if they were not allowed to smash his head in concrete, that he was not read Miranda’s rights , that he was mocked, that officers delayed summoning a supervisor, and that he was wrongfully dragged to a team car.

The review acquitted officers of their use of force, the way they carried Owensby to the car, and the timeliness of their request for a supervisor and read him his Miranda rights. The allegation that officers would beat him, the threat to attack Owensby and the allegation of mockery were all unfounded, according to the review.

The review noted that officers throughout the arrest process were able to assist Owensby in and out of police cruisers at a hospital and county jail and to Owensby’s girlfriend’s car.

If Owensby had complied with the officer’s order, the officer “would not have had to pull him out of the vehicle,” the review concluded. “Mr. Owensby made the conscientious choice to resist (the officer’s) requests to help him out of the vehicle, which required the use of force. Mr. Owensby unnecessarily escalated the situation.”

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