Police incident gains national attention: What happened this weekend in Dayton

Body camera footage of an incident involving Dayton police officers and a Black paraplegic man who was pulled from his vehicle during a traffic stop received national attention this weekend as area officials reacted to the video.

The Dayton Fraternal Order of Police, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Dayton Police Interim Director and Chief Matt Carper issued their own statements Friday evening, and the NAACP Dayton Unit held a press conference Sunday morning with the driver, Clifford B. Owensby Sr.

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Traffic stop results in paraplegic man being pulled from vehicle

The incident started Sept. 30 with a traffic stop in the 1900 block of West Grand Avenue. Two officers involved in a narcotics investigation stopped an Audi driven by Owensby after they saw him leave a suspected drug house, according to Dayton police.

A K-9 was called for a “free air sniff” because of the narcotics investigation and Owensby’s reported drug and weapons arrest history.

“Dayton Police Department policy requires the occupants of the vehicle to exit for their own safety and safety of the K-9 officer to perform the free-air sniff,” read an update from the department on Friday.

Officers told Owensby to get out of the vehicle, and Owensby responded he could not because he is paraplegic.

The officers offered to help Owensby get out of the vehicle, which he refused. He asked for a supervisor and continued to ignore commands to get out of the vehicle.

When officers tried to remove him form the vehicle, Owensby grabbed the steering wheel, according to police.

“He was then forcibly removed from the vehicle,” the statement read. “Officers placed Owensby on the ground in order to secure him. Officers had to pull his arms behind his back to handcuff him.”

Police said they found $22,450 in cash on the front floorboard in the vehicle. A police dog alerted officers to the money, meaning that it had been in close proximity to illegal drugs, police said.

Owensby was cited for traffic violations (tinted glass) and for child restraint because police said there was an unrestrained 3-year-old child in the back seat.

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NAACP says incident shows need for more police training, reform

During a press conference Sunday, the NAACP Dayton Unit said the incident stresses the need for police reform and additional training for officers when encountering people with mental health and other disability issues.

Owensby filed a complaint against the Dayton Police Department on Oct. 4 with the NAACP “for profiling him, unlawful arrest and illegal search and seizure of his vehicle,” said Derrick L. Foward, president of the NAACP Dayton unit.

“He was not read his rights before taken to jail, that is his complaint for our office,” Foward said.

Owensby also spoke during the press conference Sunday, saying he didn’t see where he did anything wrong.

“I am at a loss for words for what they did to me,” he said. “It was totally humiliation. It was hatred at its purest fashion.”

Clifford Owensby Sr., second from left, appears at a press conference Sunday with officials of the NAACP Dayton Unit to tell his side of an incident in which he was forcibly removed from his vehicle during a Sept. 30 traffic stop for an alleged window tint violation. Owensby is a paraplegic and could not step out of the vehicle as police ordered. At the table from left are the Rev. David Fox, Owensby,  Derrick Foward, NAACP Dayton unit president, and Mattie P. White, first vice president of NAACP Dayton Unit. The incident remains under investigation by police. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Caption
Clifford Owensby Sr., second from left, appears at a press conference Sunday with officials of the NAACP Dayton Unit to tell his side of an incident in which he was forcibly removed from his vehicle during a Sept. 30 traffic stop for an alleged window tint violation. Owensby is a paraplegic and could not step out of the vehicle as police ordered. At the table from left are the Rev. David Fox, Owensby, Derrick Foward, NAACP Dayton unit president, and Mattie P. White, first vice president of NAACP Dayton Unit. The incident remains under investigation by police. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Owensby said he was helped into his vehicle on Sept. 30 to take his children to school. He said the vehicle was full and didn’t have room for his wheelchair. One of his younger children was with him as he was running errands when he reportedly stopped at a property he owns to pick up cable boxes.

When police stopped him, Owensby said they told him it was for dark window tint.

After explaining they requested a K-9 unit for a clean air sniff and needed Owensby to get out of the vehicle, one of the officers reached into the vehicle and unbuckled him. Owensby said he instinctively grabbed the steering wheel and closed his eyes as they pulled him out of the vehicle by prying his hands free while other officers yanked his hair and his arms.

Owensby said he cried out for help as he was being pulled out and was slammed into the ground.

“At that time, I could not believe what was going on. I kept yelling for help. The officer grabbed my hair again and he forced my head into the concrete of the street and put his knee on my neck, the other one was grabbing my arm and forcing it behind my back,” Owensby said.

ExploreDayton FOP defends officers; Mayor: video ‘concerning’ of disabled man pulled from car

Dayton FOP president says officers acted lawfully

Jerome Dix, president of Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #44, said the officers acted lawfully when they pulled Owensby from the vehicle during the Sept. 30 traffic stop on West Grand Avenue.

“Due to the crime trends in the area, coupled with Mr. Ownesby’s criminal history, which included arrest for possession of guns and narcotics, a police narcotic K-9 unit was called to the scene,” Dix wrote in a release on behalf of the union.

The union said the officer repeatedly asked Owensby to get out of the car and offered to help.

“The officers transitioned from asking Mr. Owensby to cooperate to telling him he needed to cooperate with the traffic stop. Even after these clear warnings were given, Mr. Owensby began to physically resist by slapping the officer’s hand away from his seatbelt and gripping the steering wheel tightly,” the statement released Friday evening read, noting he then was forcibly removed from the vehicle.

“Once removed from the vehicle, Mr. Owensby was placed on the ground, where he continued to be physically noncompliant,” Dix’s statement said. “The officers involved in the traffic stop used the least amount of force to remove Mr. Owensby from the vehicle.”

“The officers followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures,” Dix said. “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.”

Mayor calls video ‘very concerning’

Whaley said Friday evening she found video of the police’s interaction with Owensby “very 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. “Immediately following this interaction, the city released the body camera footage and a full investigation is already underway.”

Dayton interim police chief: We need to do better

Carper also commented on the incident Friday evening, in a prepared presentation, saying the department always strives to improve to meet its core values of professionalism, integrity, respect and fairness, and upcoming training for all Dayton officers and supervisors will include diversity, equity and inclusion; de-escalation; bias-free policing; and procedural justice.

“We need to do better, and this can be done by further developing the mutual respect and accountability to make our city safer,” he said.