The family of a man who died after being struck by a Springfield police cruiser is suing the officer driving the cruiser and two Clark County dispatchers and asking the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case.
Eric Eugene Cole, 42, of Springfield, died June 14, 2021. Attorneys of his family filed a lawsuit that names Springfield officer Amanda Rosales and Clark County dispatchers Erin Reynolds and Mary Herge on Wednesday morning.
Cole called 911 to report he had been shot, then Rosales hit him with her cruiser as he was in the street.
Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump is representing the family, which also is working with attorneys Michael Wright and Rex Elliott.
Cole’s family and attorneys held a press conference outside of the Clark County courthouse Wednesday. Crump said the case “shocks his conscience.”
“At worst, this was a conspiracy to deceive,” Crump said Wednesday. “Not only to deceive his family… but also the community. At best, they were just reckless.”
The city of Springfield declined to comment about the lawsuit and its allegations.
The lawsuit alleges that both dispatchers recklessly failed to properly relay Cole’s location to officers responding to the scene, as well as to other dispatchers.
According to the complaint, police radio was not used to alert officers responding to the scene that Cole was lying in the street. Instead, dispatchers only provided that information via the computer-aided dispatch system, which provides dispatch information via text to officer computers.
Officers were dispatched around 11:22 p.m. on June 13 to the 1400 block of South Center Boulevard on a report of someone shot. Rosales was the first officer to respond to the scene and was “involved in an accident” with Cole, according to police.
Rosales was put on paid administrative leave, but she returned to work in August of this year, according to a city spokesperson.
Cole was flown to Miami Valley Hospital, where he died from his injuries the following day.
Cole’s family was not told about him being struck by a police cruiser until a day and a half after it occurred, attorneys said.
Cole’s autopsy concluded that he died of blunt-force trauma to the torso. His death was ruled an accident by the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
The family’s attorneys allege that Springfield police and Clark County dispatchers did not tell the responding EMS medics that Cole had been run over, and the medics did not find out until days later from news reports.
After learning that Cole had been run over, all five medics added notes to the initial EMS report detailing that none of them had been advised that Cole had been hit by a vehicle, according to the family’s attorneys.
In its lawsuit, Cole’s family says the police failure to promptly notify EMS that Cole had been run over prevented him from receiving life-saving medical care.
“To have some of his last words be the far too familiar proclamation of too many black men who die after having involvement with police: ‘I can’t breathe,’” Crump said. “George Floyd said ‘I can’t breathe’ because he had a knee on his neck. Eric Cole said ‘I can’t breathe’ because he had a police cruiser run over his body in the middle of the street.”
The suit said the family is seeking compensatory damages in an amount exceeding $25,000.
Cole’s family is filing the lawsuit to seek justice for Cole, but also transparency, attorneys said.
“We are fighting for this family,” said attorney Wright, who said he hails from Springfield. “The Springfield Police department owes this family transparency. They can’t continue to police if they’re not trusted by the community. We absolutely have to shine a light on what happened in this situation.”
Lekesha Bradford, Cole’s sister, said a lot of emotions are tied to this new step in seeking justice for him.
“We just want justice, all of us,” she said.
The family’s attorneys said they will send a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case.
“They’ll look at this incident and they will look at other patterns and practices of what might have happened whether there are patterns and practices of implicit bias or excessive force,” Crump said.
Springfield NAACP president Denise Williams said answers have come to the family 18 months after the death of their loved one.
“We are not that city,” she said. “Justice will be served.”