By Gabriel Baird and Henry J. Gomez, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A state corrections officer believes the city of Cleveland promoted unconstitutional police practices and other misconduct by failing to properly train and supervise personnel, particularly with regard to the use of excessive force.
In a lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Martin Robinson accused the city, a police lieutenant and three vice detectives of violating his civil rights.
Robinson's complaint stems from a July 2009 showdown between police and guards at the Ohio Department of Corrections' Northeast Pre-Release Center on East 30th Street, near Broadway Avenue. Without provocation, plainclothes police attacked Robinson at gunpoint, leaving him with permanent physical and mental health issues, said his attorney, Terry Gilbert.
Back pain, headaches and other injuries are so severe, Robinson cannot work, Gilbert said.
"His hands shake as a result of the nervous condition he has from what these cops did to him," he said.
The suit does not seek a specific amount in damages. City officials declined to comment.
The Pre-Release Center, which houses state prisoners about to re-enter the community, is surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire, but on July 10, 2009 it had two holes in it from a car accident. Robinson and other corrections officers were patrolling the breach in the early-morning darkness when two unmarked cars approached their post.
In a report he submitted after the incident, Cleveland Police Lt. Jerome Barrow said he and the vice detectives stopped at the center because he suspected a drug deal or "lovers lane" situation.
According to the lawsuit, two men, later identified as Barrow and Det. Anthony Spencer, were dressed in plain black clothing when they exited one car and began asking Robinson what he was doing. Barrow and Spencer did not identify themselves as police, Robinson contends. Robinson and the guards were wearing state uniforms and ID cards, according to the suit.
Details of what happened next were disputed in a subsequent police investigation. But Robinson asserts that the plainclothes police "recklessly continued to rapidly approach" him, the suit states.
Robinson says Barrow then pointed a gun at his head and threatened: "Do you want me to shoot you?" After two plainclothes detectives emerged from the second unmarked car, Spencer rushed at and wrestled with Robinson, then Barrow applied a chokehold, the suit alleges. Barrow, in his initial report, said he feared for his life because Robinson had reached for a weapon.
Eventually, police forcefully took Robinson's weapon and tackled him to the ground. After Robinson was handcuffed, Spencer slammed him face-first to the ground, according to the lawsuit and a witness statement included in the city's investigatory file of the incident.
A city prosecutor reviewed the case last year but found no criminal conduct by any of the Cleveland police officers, records show. The prosecutor also found insufficient evidence for charges against Robinson, who was taken into custody after the incident.
Besides the city, Barrow and Spencer, the suit names two other detectives, Michael Demchak and Erin O'Donnell, as defendants. Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, the union that represents detectives, did not return a telephone call.
Lt. Brian Betley, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police supervisors union, praised Barrow as a proactive leader with a good record. "I'm sure after the lawsuit runs its course," Betley said, "it will turn out positive for both the city and Lt. Barrow and his men."
Tags: anthony spencer, cleveland police, erin o'donnell, jerome barrow, martin robinson, michael demchak, ohio department of corrections, police brutality, terry gilbert, use of force, copblock.org, cop block
Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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