No excessive force found after external review of Oxford Police Dept.

Video that circulated on social media prompted use of force review.

Use of force by an Oxford Police officer in a November incident involving a Miami University student’s arrest has been investigated by an outside agency and reviewed by the county prosecutor, who concluded the arrest was lawful and absent of excess.

The Nov. 18 incident, which occurred outside Brick Street Bar, was caught on camera by the bar and later circulated on social media. In the video, Miami football player Devin Johnson is restrained first by Brick employees, and then by OPD officer Matthew Blauvelt. While on top of Johnson, Blauvelt punches Johnson.

The OPD opened an investigation into the use of force on Dec. 24 after the video was published online. In a statement on Jan. 3, Chief of Police John Jones stated the department could not comment on the investigation to protect the due process rights of both Johnson and Blauvelt. Blauvelt was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Jones told the Journal-News on Friday Blauvelt remains on paid leave until the department’s internal investigation is concluded.

“He is still on administrative leave, we still have an internal investigation to do. We will be conducting our policy review,” Jones said. “They (prosecutor’s office and sheriff’s office) are looking at it from a criminal standpoint. Should there be criminal charges and probable cause.

The OPD is looking into whether the officer followed policies and procedures within our department, Jones said.

In a letter sent to Jones on Thursday, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said several uses of force were available to Blauvelt during the struggle with Johnson, including an ASP, chemical spray and a service pistol.

Blauvelt correctly did not use the ASP, chemical spray or gun under the circumstances, “he did, however seek to control by physically striking the struggling patron three times with his closed fist to gain compliance by consequential pain to stop resistance,” Gmoser wrote.

Johnson is alleged to have earlier assaulted another patron at the bar and was alleged to be engaged in criminal trespass immediately prior to his arrest, Gmoser wrote. He is charged criminal trespass, underage intoxication, resisting arrest and assault.

He plead not guilty in Butler County Area I Court, where a trial is set for Feb. 28.

The sheriff’s office investigation conducted by Lt. Ed Tanner included review of 12 videos, five from officers.

Blauvelt’s body camera shows him getting on his knees to assist security personnel involved in an altercation with Johnson.

“The video shows Mr. Johnson grab Officer Blauvelt’s left arm/hand and pulls Officer Blauvelt down. Officer Blauvelt then proceeds to deliver three strikes to Mr. Johnson’s upper body. It is a this time that the body camera’s audio turns on and Officer Blauvelt can be heard giving orders to Mr. Johnson, to which he Johnson replies that he didn’t do anything and questions why he is being hit,” Tanner said in the report.

Another officer then arrives as the struggle continues, but they are able to place handcuffs on Johnson.

Another overhead video shows Johnson was nearly able at one point to roll Blauvelt over, and Blauvelt performed two knee strikes into Johnson’s midsection to get handcuffs on the suspect, Tanner said. Johnson is 6 feet, 1 inch tall, 190 pounds and 20 years old.

“Officer Blauvelt used physical strikes to take Mr. Johnson into custody instead of any equipment available to him on his duty belt such as an ASP Baton, OC spray and a .45 caliber Glock,” Tanner said in the report. “It is my opinion that the use of force applied in this incident was objectively reasonable.”

Gmoser reviewed Tanner’s report and concluded his letter to the Oxford police chief with this: “I am therefore of the opinion that the arrest of Devin Ryan Johnson was lawful and absent excessive force.”

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