New Albany News

Police: Pulling gun standard practice in burglary stop

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Columbus Division of Police still is investigating a complaint of excessive force against Officer Leonard Milner filed by the family of a 16-year-old New Albany High School student after a May 28 incident.

Xzavier Brandon was walking to football practice May 28 through the Preserve subdivision off Hamilton Road when Milner stopped him. The officer drew his gun in making the arrest.

The teen's family is asking for an apology from the officer.

Sgt. Rich Weiner, spokesman for Columbus police, said a resident of the area reported a break-in in the 6200 block of Hiltop Trail Drive at 12:42 p.m., and reported a young man walking in the neighborhood may have been involved.

Weiner said the person reporting the crime said, "I don't know if they (Brandon) did it but it looks suspicious."

The resident told police he would follow Brandon, Weiner said.

Officer Milner found Brandon based on Eberts' description. He stopped Brandon at 1:03 p.m. and put him in the back of his cruiser.

Brandon was released from the cruiser at 1:16 p.m. and driven to practice by another officer, who recognized the teen as a member of the high school football team.

Weiner said there was no excessive force used in the stop. Officers investigating a potential burglary, which is a felony, confront suspects at gunpoint.

"It's standard procedure because it was a felony," Weiner said. "Most felons are armed. Not all, but most, and it's is a serious crime."

He said detaining Brandon is not illegal either. Officers are allowed to use "investigative detention," to detain a suspect for "a reasonable amount of time --10 to 15 minutes -- to get to the scene and investigate the crime and make sure the people stopped were or were not involved," Weiner said.

He said the owner of the Hiltop Trail Drive house had returned home by the time Brandon was detained. The homeowner listed the items that had been taken and none were found on Brandon or in his backpack.

Weiner said a supervising officer on the scene, Sgt. Tyrone Hollis, recognized Brandon, saying Brandon played football with his son.

"Being a parent and having your child go through something like that is traumatic," Weiner said. "You don't want your child to go through that and for that I'm sorry. But as far as how we do our jobs, we can't change that.

"This is a situation where a kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We're sorry he had to go through that but we can't apologize for the actions of an officer doing his job."

Weiner said a complaint can take a couple of weeks or several months to investigate. Once the internal affairs department has completed its investigation, it will send a copy of the findings to Brandon's family. If they do not agree with the findings, Weiner said they can appeal the decision to the Deputy Chief of the Columbus Division of Police.

Patrick Gallaway, communications director for the New Albany-Plain Local school district, said the school has many students "come to campus in a variety of modes of transportation during school year. We don't have much control over how get there."

Brandon's football coach and high school teacher, Pat Samanich, called Brandon "a hard-working young man" and said he has "the upmost respect for" him.

He said he's worked with Brandon off and on the football field. Brandon is a varsity defensive end, and Samanich taught him in his digital photography and mass media classes, finding him smart and polite.

"I'm glad everything worked out for all parties involved and I know we're just lucky that nothing escalated and nothing worse happened," Samanich said.

Samanich said when he first moved to New Albany several years ago, he was unloading a moving van at his apartment. That was the first time he met Brandon, who came over, introduced himself and helped unload.

Samanich said Brandon probably was in middle school at the time.

"He didn't know me and he helped us unload our furniture. He's from down South and has impeccable manners," he said.

Samanich said he didn't get a full account of what had happened until several days later. He said Brandon told him he had been stopped for questioning by police on the way to practice.

"I told him, 'You've gotta give me a call right away," Samanich said. "If I could have helped him, that's what I'm here for."

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