Cleveland, Cuyahoga County sued over false arrests, extreme power throughout final spring’s George Floyd protests

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – More than a dozen people filed a lawsuit on Friday in which Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and several police officers and sheriff MPs were charged with excessive violence and illegally arrested during George Floyd’s protests in downtown Cleveland last year and were imprisoned.

One woman said police officers and prison staff illegally detained her in Cuyahoga County Prison for six days without charge. The officers sprayed pepper spray on two women who were protesting peacefully and placed one in plastic zippered handcuffs that were so tight that it had nerve damage to her wrist, the suit said. Police shot a couple with less lethal ammunition as they walked down the street.

A total of 13 demonstrators sued a total of 26 named officials and dozen others who were not named. This emerges from a copy of the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland on Friday.

“The City of Cleveland has been called to various areas of downtown Cleveland through its Police Department and Cuyahoga County through its Sheriff’s Department to engage the protesters and allegedly keep the peace,” the complaint read. However, instead of protecting freedom of speech under the First Amendment, many peaceful protesters have been attacked, falsely arrested and / or charged for no reason or probable cause. Worse, they were detained at the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center for several days and falsely charged with crimes. ”

A separate lawsuit filed on Friday on behalf of two people arrested the day after the downtown protests stated that officials falsely arrested them, illegally searched them and held them in jail for several days.

Attorney Sarah Gelsomino of the Friedman, Gilbert, and Gerhardstein law firm filed both lawsuits on behalf of the 15 plaintiffs.

“Although the police knew about the protests well in advance, the police were completely unprepared and hostile to the demonstrators,” said Gelsomino. “Now they must be responsible for their indiscriminate use of force and their rampant, sloppy and illegal arrests of people who have not engaged in criminal activities and who have not been given an opportunity to leave.”

The protests

Tear gas fills the air from the justice center. John Kuntz, cleveland.com

The suits arrive two days before the first anniversary of the city’s most extensive violence and the most destructive civil unrest since the 1968 Glenville riots. Cell phone and body camera videos, testimony, and follow-up inspections showed the city and county to be safe given the size of the Demonstration understaffed and unprepared for hostility from part of the crowd days after Floyd’s murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Hundreds of protesters marched to the Cuyahoga County Justice Center and confronted a number of bicycle officers and sheriff MPs stationed inside. After some people started throwing things at the police, the department ruled the entire gathering illegal, and a commander ordered the crowd to disperse. A review later found the dThe ispersal order was insufficient and probably inaudible to much of the crowd.

The officers then started firing pepper spray balls and shooting canisters of chemical spray into the crowd. Members of the crowd picked up some of the canisters and threw them back to the police. Tensions mounted before the crowd finally broke up and dispersed into the downtown area, where rioters broke into and destroyed stores and businesses.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson put a curfew on the downtown business district from May 20 to May 31 at 8 p.m. The curfew resumed at 12:00 noon on May 31 and lasted for several days.

The lawsuits

One of the plaintiffs in Friday’s lawsuit is Misty Golinar, seen on body camera video of a deputy sheriff’s speaking quietly to a number of police officers when a Cleveland police officer shot pepper spray in her face. The police union president said it appeared the officer was aiming for someone behind him who threw a sign at the police.

Cleveland.com discovered the use of months of violence after the incident when it received a body camera video from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. A Cleveland police spokeswoman said the department was unaware of the incident until the media searched for comment after discovering the video.

Emily Forsee and her partner Ryan Jones, sued two members of the sheriff’s department who, according to the complaint, were shot with rubber bullets when Forsee took a cell phone video of a broken window in the justice center.

Emily Forsee protests against Ryan Jones Cleveland

Emily Forsee and her partner Ryan Jones stopped to photograph the Justice Center during the May 30 protests when officers stationed at the Justice Center shot them dead. The incident occurred less than 20 minutes after an officer shot Sandusky resident John Sanders, 24, in the face with a beanbag that left him without an eye.

Braize St. Cruz, a transgender man, said in the complaint that after MPs surrounded and arrested him 15 minutes after the curfew, the county jail staff put him in the women’s bowl and repeatedly said “Lady” and “Ma ‘” on “called. invalidate his gender.

Cassandra Zeimer, who is non-binary and uses her pronouns, said in the complaint, after police falsely arrested her for violating the curfew, prison staff withheld her prescribed antidepressants and mood-stabilizing drugs. Zeimer experienced a psychological episode and the staff put her in solitary confinement, the complaint said.

The lawsuits allege that prison staff and law enforcement agencies failed to return property to several arrested people. One woman arrested for $ 1,760 did not receive $ 1,560 until after she was released from prison, and another man was not given a camera to bring to photograph the protests, the complaint said.

Several other incidents are still being investigated

The lawsuits are in addition to several incidents that are either under criminal investigation or are the subject of civil rights suits that have already been filed against law enforcement agencies.

A criminal investigation is ongoing against the deputy of a Cuyahoga County sheriff suspected of shooting a 24-year-old Sandusky man in the face with a beanbag chair. The beanbag exploded on impact, sending lead bullets into his left eye, which the doctors later had to remove. The man, John Sanders, has not yet filed a lawsuit.

The county asked the Ohio Attorney General’s Criminal Investigation Bureau to investigate last June’s shooting and put deputy Bruce Lourie on restricted service.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley has withdrawn his office from the case and asked Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz to serve as special prosecutor. Flaiz said Friday that the case is still under investigation.

Another special attorney is investigating whether Cleveland officer John Kazimer should be charged with wrongdoing. Protesters say he shot a woman in the face with pepper spray, hit a peaceful protester in the back legs with his police truncheon, and hit a man who later had to be stabbed in the head.

O’Malley’s office declined to bring criminal charges against Kazimer and referred the investigation to the Cleveland City Attorney to see if misdemeanor charges should be brought. The city appointed Dayton’s attorney John H. Rion as special attorney to handle the case. Rion said Friday that it was his policy “not to comment on an ongoing investigation”.

Police dispute

Jaleesa Bennett uses a shield to protect her face from pepper spray on May 30th in Cleveland. In a lawsuit, she claims that Cleveland Patrolman John Kazimer fired the spray to suppress her First Amendment rights. [Photo contained in a lawsuit]

In February, Cleveland paid $ 35,000 to the woman who sprayed Kazimer with pepper spray resolve a lawsuit that she has filed. A Kazimer’s complaint was struck in the back the leg remains pending before the federal court.

Anthony Body, an activist with the Bail Project and a former member of the city’s Community Police Commission, filed a lawsuit against the city after the police arrested him twice in a day during the curfew. Body, who lived downtown and worked at the Justice Center, rode his bike to lunch on West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue and a group of police officers stopped him and cited him for non-compliance even after he said he did showed them his work card and license with his downtown address. Another group of officers stopped him after he had lunch and was on his way back to the judicial center, and he was again charged with non-compliance, the lawsuit said. The city prosecutor dropped both charges.

Another downtown resident, Mehdi Mollahasani, said in a lawsuit that police arrested him while he was picking up a grocery delivery order and told him he looked like a looter before dragging him to jail for two days.

His charges were also later dismissed.

A member of the Eastside Departments Group Enforcement, a SWAT unit made up of officers from the Cleveland, Beachwood, Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and University Heights police forces, shot more than 20 pepperballs at Kyler Lerz when he was entered his apartment building in the city center.

The City of Cleveland and Police Chief Calvin Williams defended the officers’ actions on May 30. The city hired a retired highway policeman to conduct the internal review of the department’s handling of the incident. A report released in December found that the officers acted appropriately, save for a few incidents related to prosecutors.

However, the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team, which was created to oversee the police agency’s efforts to reform its use of force practices under what is known as the consent decree, found in its review of the protest that nearly half of the officers exposed to some level of use of violence during the protests failed to properly report the incidents.

Some officers used violence against demonstrators but did not report it at all, the team found. The violations were widespread enough that the team wrote in the report that they “had serious concerns that at least some officials might have been instructed not to make full use of the use of violence reports, which is worrying”.