The Hilliard Division of Police on Thursday, April 9, concluded an internal investigation into a complaint about a sergeant assaulting a man who was arrested and charged with OVI on Feb. 15.
The sergeant was cleared of any wrongdoing.
According to a complaint-referral form that a 34-year-old Columbus man filed after the arrest, the man alleged the sergeant “punched” him in the face and a door was shut on his foot while he was being detained in the back of a cruiser on suspicion of abandoning a wrecked vehicle.
Police Chief Robert Fisher, after reviewing the recommended findings, concurred the first allegation of assault was “exonerated” and the second allegation was “unfounded.”
In an April 9 letter to the sergeant, Fisher wrote he agreed with the finding of Deputy Chief Eric Grile, who wrote that “based on my investigative findings … for the first allegation of being punched in the face … I recommend the complaint be classified exonerated.”
“(The sergeant) did strike (the man’s face) while using appropriate force. … The strike was meant to be on the shoulders, but the movement of the person involved made the contact to (the) face.”
A video camera inside the cruiser recorded the sergeant reaching into the vehicle as the man was moving about.
According to the complaint-referral form, after being advised he was “not being arrested at that time,” he told officers he should not be detained.
An officer had removed a knife in his possession, and later, after the man was seen moving in the back seat of the cruiser, officers took a cellphone from him, police spokeswoman Andrea Litchfield told ThisWeek previously.
Concerning the second allegation, Grile wrote the sergeant twice told the complainant to move his foot and there is no video evidence that shows the door being closed on the man’s foot.
Fisher wrote the matter is now closed.
The complaint was related to the man’s eventual OVI arrest and involvement in an accident in which a wrecked SUV was abandoned.
The incident began in early morning hours of Feb. 15 when an officer observed a white SUV rolled onto its side at Scioto Darby Road and Parkside Court.
No one was inside the SUV but police learned its registered owner lived on Drayton Road.
A different officer went to the Drayton Road residence shortly before 3 a.m. Feb. 15 and contacted the 34-year-old Columbus man, who was a passenger in a vehicle idling in front of the residence, police said.
That officer removed the man from the vehicle while another officer spoke with the driver, a 36-year-old woman who resides on Parkside Court. She later was charged with OVI and OVI per se, both first-degree misdemeanor charges
The man was believed to be the driver of the wrecked SUV. He was found with “glass and grass in his hair and on his shoulders,” police said, and had the keys to the wrecked SUV.
He also admitted driving it to a bar but said he had left it there and was picked up by a friend, according to the report.
The man, later determined to be the son of the registered owner of the vehicle, was “uncooperative” and refused to submit to any sobriety tests, police said.
He was charged with OVI and not “stopping after accident upon streets,” both first-degree misdemeanors. He also was cited for failure to control a motor vehicle, according to court records.
According to the investigative report, police received the man’s complaint the evening of Feb. 15 and noted he did not have any visible marks.
On Feb. 21, Fisher assigned the investigation to Grile, who prearranged a call with the complainant for Feb. 24, according to the report.
But two calls on that day went unanswered. Messages were left, and an email was sent, the report said.
On March 2, Grile received a voicemail message from the complainant, who did not answer a return call and had not done so as of the close of the investigation on April 9, according to the report.
The investigation was suspended from March 13 to 26 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but it resumed March 27 and ended with the April 9 finding, the report said.