Incident Between Black Disabled Man, Dayton Police Under Investigation

In Summary

An investigation into an incident caught on body cam is underway following an encounter involving a paraplegic Black man being dragged by Dayton police during a traffic stop.

WARNING – This story contains details of police brutality. Resources for those triggered by this coverage are available here.

Law enforcement and city officials in Dayton, Ohio, promise a thorough review of an encounter between Dayton police officers and a Black paraplegic man, who was cuffed and forcibly dragged from his car into a police cruiser.

Body camera footage shows officers appeared to pull Clifford Owensby over for a traffic stop on September 30, noting his window tint was too dark. Owensby reportedly can’t walk and was running errands without his wheelchair in his car, according to CBS affiliate WHIO News Center 7.

He has since filed a complaint against the officers with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and plans to follow up with a lawsuit. He’s represented by James Willis and Clarissa Smith.

“Regardless of how anyone feels about Mr. Owensby, the color of his skin, his criminal history, him having dark tint or having a child in the backseat without a carseat, nobody should be dragged out of a vehicle by their hair, dragged across the ground and subjected to the abuse that Mr. Owensby was subjected to,” said Smith. “Particularly when they are unable to defend themselves and are at a disadvantage as he unfortunately is.”

Video shows a cop approaching Owensby, asking him to turn off the car and step outside, per reports. Noting Owensby’s past drug and weapons convictions, the officer told him that a dog would search the vehicle.

Owensby told officers that he is paraplegic and was physically unable to leave the car, footage showed. He makes a phone call, asking an unidentified person to bring people and cameras to his location.

Officers repeatedly told Owensby to get out of the car to conduct their search, which he refused, telling officers not to touch him.

“No, you’re not. No, you’re not. You’re not going to touch me,” Owensby said.

“I’ll pull you out and then I’ll call the white shirt,” the officer said, referencing a supervisor. “Because you’re getting out of the car. That’s not an option.”

Adding, “You’re getting out of this car. So you can cooperate and get out of this car, or I will drag you out of this car. Do you see your two options here?”

The video footage shows the two officers reaching in and pulling Owensby out of his car by his hair, slamming him onto the pavement. Owensby is heard screaming and pleading for help. Seconds later, the officers are shown dragging him into their squad car.

Owensby told the Dayton Daily News he was injured during the incident, having sustained scrapes from the pavement, and is still in pain. 

“I feel like they don’t even respect me as a citizen,” Owensby said. The Dayton Police Department said the incident was part of a drug investigation and traffic stop.

There were no drugs or firearms in the vehicle, Owensby told the publication. Dayton police said they recovered $22,450 from the car.

The interim Chief of Police Matt Carper and Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein promised a thorough review of the encounter, including the officers’ actions and any misconduct allegations.

Dayton Mayor Nannette Whaley released the following statement to BNC:

“The video of this police interaction is very concerning. That is why, immediately following this incident, the city released the body camera footage. Everyone involved is owed a thorough investigation, and one is already underway. This incident shows why our community-led police reform process, which includes providing transparency, is more important than ever. The goal is always to ensure our police force has the resources to do its job, while treating all of our citizens with dignity and respect.”

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.   

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