An Ohio man, paraplegic Clifford Owensby, has filed a complaint with the N.A.A.C.P. after Dayton police dragged him out of his car by the hair during a September 30 stop. The Dayton Police Department’s body camera footage reveals what happened.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the city released the body footage right after the incident because they wanted a thorough investigation. The Dayton Police Department is conducting an internal review of the incident. The N.A.A.C.P announced they will also conduct an investigation.
Sniffing for Drugs
Owensby, 39, was stopped as he drove away from an alleged drug house. He had a past felony record for weapons and drugs. In a briefing after the incident, a police spokesperson said officers wanted to use a K-9 to sniff the car to see if illegal drugs were inside.
The officers told Owensby he must step out of the car so the police dog could conduct the sniff test. He replied that he could not get out of the car because he was paraplegic.
Cooperate or I’ll Drag You Out
Owensby tells the officers he has no use of his legs. One officer says he can help him out of the car. Owensby refuses, citing a fear of being hurt. He asks for a “white shirt,” or police supervisor. The officer says he will contact a supervisor after he gets out of the car.
At one point, Owensby takes out his phone to call someone. The officer becomes agitated, saying Owensby has two options: cooperate and get out of the car, or get dragged out.
The video shows police officers telling Owensby repeatedly that he must exit the car, even as he screams, “I’m paraplegic, bro, you can hurt me!” He calls for help as the officers pull him out of the vehicle by his arms and hair.
He is then cuffed with his hands behind his back. The video shows several officers taking Owensby away from his car to the squad car with his legs dragging.
A 3-year-old child was removed from the backseat by police.
Tried to De-escalate
Phil Stinson, the Police Integrity Research Group leader at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, watched the video and told The Washington Post that Owensby tried to de-escalate the situation by asking to speak with the officers' supervisor. He was the one acting rationally, according to Stinson.
Disabilities activists noted that the removal by force of a paraplegic person could result in serious injuries.
Bag of Cash
A bag of cash containing $22,450 was found in Owensby’s car by the police. The K-9 recognized it as drug-tainted. Owensby was not charged with any drug-related offenses.
However, he was cited for having an unrestrained child in the backseat and having tinted windows on the vehicle. While he was originally cited for resisting arrest and obstructing official business, police did not charge him.
The Dayton Police Department is conducting an internal review of the incident.
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