Disturbing body camera footage appears to show police officers dragging a paralysed man out of his car by his hair.
Clifford Owensby, a paraplegic Black man, was driving on West Grand Avenue in Dayton, Ohio on 30 September when police stopped him.
In bodycam footage obtained by WHIO News, a Dayton police officer can be heard ordering Mr Owensby to step out of his car. Mr Owensby replies that he can’t because of his disability.
“I cannot step out. I’m a paraplegic,” he says.
An argument then ensues, and Mr Owensby asks the officer to call over his “white shirt”, meaning his supervisor.
“Here’s the thing, I’m going to pull you out and then I’ll call a white shirt,” the officer replies. “Because you’re getting out of the car. That’s not an option. You’re getting out of this car, so you can cooperate and get out of the car, or I will drag you out of the car. Do you see your two options here?”
Mr Owensby asks again that the officer call his supervisor. At that point, the officer – and possibly a second officer as well – appear to drag Mr Owensby out of the vehicle by his arm, and then by his hair.
Mr Owensby screams in pain.
“Somebody help!” he shouts. “I’m a paraplegic!”
The police then handcuff Mr Owensby as he lies on the pavement, screaming.
The incident has sparked outrage online. Ben Crump, a lawyer who frequently represents Black clients in police brutality cases, called the officers’ actions “unacceptable”.
“Dayton PD pulled over Clifford Owensby & violently PULLED him out of the vehicle after learning that he was a paraplegic who couldn’t use his legs,” Mr Crump tweeted. “Cops SHOULD treat citizens with respect. Instead, police had no regard for the wellbeing of this man.”
The Dayton Police Department says it is investigating the incident.
“The investigation will include the review of any policies and training when encountering these situations,” the department told the Dayton Daily News. “We ask the public to please be patient while all of the facts are gathered so we may have a clear understanding of what occurred and why in order to make informed decisions and continue to improve services.”
On Twitter, Interim Chief Matt Carper added that the department was working to improve its training of officers.
“We recognise that we would all like to see interactions between citizens and police officers handled professionally, cooperatively, and safely,” Mr Carper said. “We need to do better, and this can be done by further developing the mutual respect and accountability necessary to make our City safer.”
Mr Owensby himself has also spoken out about what happened.
“I just feel like they were wrong for doing what they were doing, and I couldn’t believe what was happening to me,” he told WHIO.
He also says he is still in pain from the altercation, which he says aggravated an old back injury.
The Independent has reached out to the Dayton Police Department for additional comment, but has not heard back yet.
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