Ohio police officers were filmed forcibly pulling a Black man with paraplegia out of his vehicle by his hair and then dragging him to a patrol car during a traffic stop after the man informed them of his inability to exit his vehicle at their command.
Officers stopped Clifford Owensby in a Dayton neighborhood on Sept. 30 after his vehicle was seen leaving a suspected illegal drug house, police said Friday while releasing body camera footage of the afternoon traffic stop.
The police took Owensby’s identification and a drug K-9 inspected his vehicle after officers determined that he had a felony drug and weapon history. This inspection required Owensby to exit his vehicle, police said.
“I cannot step out,” Owensby told the officers when instructed, as heard in the body camera footage. “I’m a paraplegic.”
Officers offered to help Owensby out of his vehicle, to which Owensby said, “I don’t think that’s going to happen, sir.”
“You’re getting out of the car. So you can cooperate and get out of the car or I can drag you out of the car,” an officer, with increasing agitation, is heard telling him.
Owensby asked for the officers’ supervisor and appeared to call someone on his phone to come assist him at the scene. When an officer reached in to remove him, Owensby repeatedly warned that because of his paralysis, the officers could physically hurt him.
Video shows at least two officers pulling Owensby out of the vehicle and to the ground shortly after, with one officer gripping him by his hair. They can be seen hauling Owensby off to a nearby patrol vehicle with his shoeless feet dragging along the pavement behind him.
A 3-year-old who was sitting unrestrained in the back seat of Owensby’s vehicle was also removed. In the course of the vehicle search, officers recovered a large bag of cash totaling $22,450 inside the floorboard. A narcotics K-9 indicated that the money had been in close proximity to illegal drugs, police said.
A police report from the incident obtained by the Dayton Daily News accused Owensby of obstructing official business and resisting arrest, both of which are misdemeanors. He was ultimately cited in a municipal court for traffic citations, failure to restrain a child in the backseat, and for tinted glass. A Dayton police representative did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for a copy of the incident report and comment on Monday.
Owensby has meanwhile filed a complaint against the police department with Dayton’s NAACP for profiling him, unlawful arrest, illegal search and seizure of his vehicle, and for officers’ failure to read him his Miranda Rights before he was taken into custody and transported to a jail, the local chapter’s president said Sunday.
“I don’t see where I did anything wrong with this matter and I am at a loss for words for what they did to me. It was total humiliation, it was hatred,” Owensby said at a press conference Sunday.
Dayton NAACP President Dr. Derrick Foward told HuffPost Monday that he plans to meet with Owensby’s attorney to discuss their next moves.
“He’s having nightmares and not understanding what took place with him. He has some scrapes on his body,” Foward said of Owensby, adding that the last he heard was that Owensby is unsure whether he suffered any internal damage.
“He’s dragged like he’s going to a slaughterhouse, by his hair,” Foward said, describing the video.
“I’ll never say that law enforcement officers don’t have tough jobs,” added Foward, who shared that his own father was a police officer while he was growing up in Dayton. “But they have to remain calm ... you’ve got to remain professional as a law enforcement officer.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death last year at the hands of Minneapolis police, the Dayton NAACP released a list of advised policy changes for police departments throughout the region, including a ban of knee holds and chokeholds, the required use of officer body and police vehicle cameras, and officer training that emphasizes mental health assessments, de-escalating conflicts and improving community relations.
Foward said there’s been some success with implementing the use of body cameras and that he’s proud his city “did bring together the community after the death of George Floyd,” but he added that change will only come if the police force is adequately trained and diversified to match the community.
The head of the Dayton police union defended the officers’ handling of the situation.
“The officers followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures,” Jerome Dix, president of Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #44, told the Dayton Daily News. “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 Mayor Nan Whaley, in her own statement released Friday, called the video “concerning.”
“No matter where you live or what you look like, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect when dealing with Dayton Police,” she said.