Cops Who Dragged Man Out of Car by Hair Exonerated

Dayton police officers did not violate policy, internal probe finds
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2021 5:55 PM CDT
Updated Jan 13, 2022 6:50 AM CST

Update: The two Dayton, Ohio, police officers who pulled a paraplegic man out of his car by his dreadlocks last year did not violate department policies in doing so, an internal probe found. Officers Wayne Hammock and Vincent Carter were exonerated in the Dayton Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau's investigation, the Dayton Daily News reports. An NAACP official says the organization is disappointed with the findings, but is confident Clifford Owensby, who filed a federal lawsuit over the incident last month, will ultimately prevail in court. The probe did find minor violations, including turning bodycams off, but neither officer was suspended or fined. The department has since added language to its policy about how to arrest and transport people with physical disabilities, and officers will get additional training. Our original story from Oct. 11, 2021, follows:

Police pulled over a man in Dayton, Ohio, telling him the stop was over tinted windows. In fact, police say they stopped Clifford Owensby because they were watching the house he had just left because they suspected drug activity, and they wanted a dog to sniff his car. They asked him to get out of the car, but Owensby, 39, who is paraplegic, said he could not. So they pulled him out of the car by his hair. Owensby told them that he didn’t have the use of his legs, and said he would file a lawsuit if they touched him without a good reason. He asked to make contact with a supervisor, which apparently upset the police officer he was talking to. “You can cooperate and get out of the car, or I can drag you out of the car,” he said heatedly. Owensby still resisted getting out without trusted assistance. “You can hurt me,” he can be heard saying in bodycam video released by the City of Dayton.

In the video, one officer grabs Owensby’s arm while another grabs his hair and uses it to pull him out of the car. Owensby cries out in pain, then yells: "Somebody help! I'm a paraplegic." Once Owensby is sprawled on the ground, one officer holds him down with his knee, then police cuff his hands behind his back and drag him to their cruiser. Owensby's shoes fall off, which another officer throws at Owensby’s car, missing once. "Can y'all call the real police, please?" Owensby can be heard pleading. Authorities say they later found a bag with $22,450 in it and claimed a dog indicated the cash could have been near drugs at some point, CNN reports. The money, Owensby said, was his savings, and officers did not make any drugs or weapons charges.

The video "is very concerning to me," Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said, per the Dayton Daily News. "No matter where you live or what you look like, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect when dealing with Dayton police," Whaley said. The Dayton police department’s interim chief, Matt Carper, said, "We need to do better," in response to video of Owensby's arrest. That arrest, according to the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 44 is, in fact, what Dayton police are trained to do. "The officers followed the law, their training, and departmental policies and procedures," Jerome Dix, chapter president, said in a statement. "Sometimes the arrest of noncompliant individuals is not pretty," he said. Owensby ultimately was cited for having a child unrestrained in the back seat, and for the tinted windows. (Read more police brutality stories.)

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