Third of officers in an Ohio police department hit with civil rights and abuse charges
Written by ABC Audio. All rights reserved. on March 10, 2023
(EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio) — More than a third of the East Cleveland, Ohio, police department is now under indictment after prosecutors charged 11 more current and former members of the troubled law enforcement agency with public corruption and civil rights violations, alleging some of their abuse perpetrated on community residents was akin to “torture.”
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and the Cleveland Division of the FBI announced the new indictments at a news conference and released police body camera footage showing the officers allegedly beating, kicking and stomping community residents, including several who were brutalized after being handcuffed and appearing to comply with officers order to get on their knees.
“The real victim here was the entire city, all the citizens of East Cleveland, who had to live in a city with fear,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley.
The new indictments increased the number of current and former East Cleveland officers charged with crimes within the last seven months to 16, including the former police chief Scott Gardner, who was indicted in September on multiple counts of theft and fraud. Gardner has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The indictments leave the city with just two dozen remaining officers on the force, officials said.
East Cleveland, which is nine miles east of the city of Cleveland, has a population of 13,586.
Prosecutors said the indictments stemmed from 31 separate incidents between June 2018 and July 2022.
The officers arrested and charged under the new indictments were identified as John Hartman, Nicholas Foti, Ian McInnes, Kyle Wood, Tyler Mundson, Brian Stoll and Laurice Mans. Also indicted were Brian Parks, Daniel Toomer, Tristan Homan and Tre DeHart Robinson.
During Wednesday’s news conference, O’Malley played clips from nine police body cam videos showing officers allegedly abusing citizens.
“People in these videos were giving up, they were showing their hands, they were not threats,” O’Malley said.
One video showed an officer repeatedly stomping on a man who was in police custody on the ground. Another video captured a cop commanding an individual shown on his knees to lie down on his stomach and then allegedly kicking the person in the back, knocking him to the pavement.
Other videos showed an officer shoving a man who had his hands up to the ground and kicking him in the groan. And another video showed an officer allegedly striking a man with his police cruiser and then punching him as he lay on the ground writhing in pain from a broken pelvis.
A video O’Malley said he was particularly “appalled” by showed officers stomping on the head of a handcuffed man and repeatedly deploying stun guns on him.
“I was appalled that we could be witnessing a guy handcuffed and his head stomped, or witnessing a guy handcuffed and being tased while handcuffed repeatedly, which to me is a form of torture,” O’Malley said.
East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King applauded O’Malley for “helping our police department root out these individuals who have committed these alleged offenses.” But King added that the investigations against the officers started with internally.
King said new police body camera equipment the city funded provided much of the supporting evidence for the charges.
“Last year, we were able to upgrade our cameras. The new cameras, the new systems, aren’t reliant on officers to activate them, which lessens the possibility of human error,” King said.
East Cleveland City Council President Juanita Gowdy told ABC affiliate station WEWS-TV in Cleveland that she was “shocked” by the alleged abuse. To fill the staffing void in the police department, Gowdy said she has made an emergency request for patrol assistance from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department.
“I’m disappointed and I’m really upset. This should never happen like this,” Gowdy said. “I’m looking forward to having the sheriff to come out and support us because we definitely are going to need help.”
The indictments against the East Cleveland police officers come in the wake of the fatal beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, following a traffic stop. The incident was captured on police body cameras and a stationary security camera and led to the firing of seven officers, including five who are charged with murder.
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