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Police dragged a paraplegic man from his car after he told them he couldn't get out

10October 2021

A Dayton Police vehicle is viewed after an active shooter opened fire in the Oregon district in Dayton, Ohio on August 4, 2019.

MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images

MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images

The Dayton Police Department says it’s investigating an incident last month in which several officers pulled a paraplegic man from his car after he told officers he was unable to get out.

Officers stopped Clifford Owensby on Sept. 30 as he was driving away from what police say was a suspected drug house. Because of Owensby’s past felony drug and weapons history, officers wanted a police K-9 to conduct a “free-air” sniff of the vehicle to determine if there were illegal drugs inside, police said in a video briefing.

To do that, officers told Owensby, he would have to step out of his car, according to body camera footage released by the department. “I cannot step out,” he tells the officers. “I’m a paraplegic.”

The unidentified officer speaking to Owensby tells him police can help him out of the car, but Owensby says they may hurt him. Owensby requests a “white shirt,” shorthand for a police supervisor, but the officer says he’ll call one only after Owensby gets out.

The officer grows increasingly agitated by Owensby’s refusal to exit the car. “You can cooperate and get out of the car or I’ll drag you out of the car. Do you see your two options here?”

Several officers then grab Owensby and yank him out of the car, pulling on his arms and hair as he cries out for help. The officers cuff Owensby’s hands behind his back and pull him away from the vehicle, his legs dragging along the street.

The police department is conducting an internal investigation

The Dayton Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau is now investigating the incident and says it will share the results when the investigation is complete.

Authorities say they found a bag of cash containing $22,450 in the car which the K-9 “alerted” on, which police say means it was in the vicinity of illegal drugs at some point. Officers also removed a 3-year-old child from the backseat.

Owensby was cited for failing to restrain a child in the backseat and having a tint on his windows. According to the Dayton Daily News, a police report also cited Owensby for obstructing official business and resisting arrest, but he was not charged with either offense.

Dayton’s mayor calls Owensby’s arrest “very concerning”

Following the incident, Dayton mayor Nan Whaley issued a statement raising concerns about Owensby’s arrest and emphasizing that the city would be transparent in its review of what occurred.

“The video of this police interaction is very concerning,” Whaley said in a statement provided to NPR. “That is why, immediately following this incident, the city released the body camera footage. Everyone involved is owed a thorough investigation, and one is already underway.”

The Dayton chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is also investigating Owensby’s arrest, according to the Washington Post.

“To pull this man out of the car, by his hair — a paraplegic — is totally unacceptable, inhumane and sets a bad light on our great city of Dayton, Ohio,” president Derrick L. Foward told the newspaper.

But reaction to the body camera footage was mixed. Jerome Dix, president of Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #44, defended the officers’ conduct, the Dayton Daily News reported.

“The officers followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures,” Dix said. “Sometimes the arrest of noncompliant individuals is not pretty, but is a necessary part of law enforcement to maintain public safety, which is one of the fundamental ideologies of our society.”

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