• The Dayton Weekly News

Community and Local Leaders Question Use of Force on a Paraplegic Citizen


A screenshot from the body cam footage of the incident with Clifford Owensby [Chris Welter / WYSO]

By now I am sure that you have seen the video of Clifford Owensby, a paraplegic man being yanked from his car by his hair last Thursday afternoon and then dragged to the patrol car during a traffic stop.


Officers stopped Clifford Owensby in a Dayton Neighborhood on September 30th after his vehicle was seen leaving a suspected illegal drug house, police said last Friday. The police took Owensby’s identification and a drug K-9 inspected the vehicle in which his three year old son was also a passenger.


Because of his drug and weapons history, officers asked Owensby to step out of the car. Owensby explained to the officers that he was a paraplegic and could not exit the car. The officers insisted that Owensby exit the vehicle. At that point Owensby requested that the officers call a supervisor. The officer appeared to call someone on his phone but afterwards things continued to escalate.


The viral video that has been shared thousands of times across social media sites shows at least two officers pulling Owensby out of the vehicle and to the ground shortly after, with one officer gripping him by his hair. Once he was on the ground the officers can be seen with their knee on his back before hauling Owensby off to a nearby patrol vehicle with his shoeless feet dragging along the pavement behind him.


The police report accuses Owensby of obstructing official business and resisting arrest. He was ultimately cited in a municipal court for traffic citations, failure to restrain a child in the backseat, and for tinted glass. Mr. Owensby stated in a press conference on Sunday at the NAACP headquarters that he doesn’t see where he did anything wrong. “I don’t even feel like they respected me as a citizen. I am at a loss for words for what they did to me. It was total humiliation, it was hatred.”


During the vehicle search, officers recovered a large bag of cash totaling $22,450 inside the car. At the time of the press conference at the NAACP headquarters that money had not been returned. Owensby also stated that there was definitely over $24,000 in the car.


Owensby has meanwhile filed a complaint against the police department with Dayton’s NAACP for profiling him, unlawful arrest, illegal search and seizure of his vehicle, and for officers’ failure to read him his Miranda Rights before he was taken into custody and transported to a jail, the NAACP’s local chapter’s president, Derrick Foward said Sunday.


Reactions to the traffic stop came quickly. Donald Dominick, Chief Consultant for the New Black Panther Party stated, “We in the Black Panther Party condemn the actions of the two officers and believe they should be terminated immediately. Especially in the light of recent police reforms that we participated in. The fact that some officers continue to violate the trust of the citizens in Dayton seriously undermines the ability to build lasting relationships to improve conditions in the city”.


Jerome Dix, President of the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #44 told the Dayton Daily News that the officers followed the law, their training and the departmental policies and procedures. “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.”


When asked how she felt about the treatment of Owensby, Daj’za Demmings, Founder of the Dayton Young Black Professionals said, “What happened to Clifford Owensby is not a political issue, it’s a basic human rights issue. We should not seek to further our personal agendas by using his story or the stories of so many other black and brown victims. Saying Black Lives Matter is one thing, but to show up and demand that they matter is another. I have always stressed the importance of our West Side residents. Clifford is one of those residents. Politics and social justice are vital to our community, and we cannot provide for ourselves when those in charge of our protection use unjustified force. The People condemn the actions of local law enforcement, and we ask that community members meet us at City Hall on 13 October at 830am to protest the inhuman treatment of Clifford Owensby and the bigger issue of the disregard of humanity for Dayton residents in the hands of Dayton Police. Who will police the police? We must press this issue, we need answers. We need transparency, we need accountability. We need to get elected officials that truly are here for THE PEOPLE. If not us, then WHO? If not now, then WHEN?”


Erica Fields, Executive Director of the City of Dayton Human Relations Council said, “The recent interaction involving a Dayton resident and the Dayton Police Department (DPD) reminds us of all of the ongoing challenges we face towards improve community police relations. Policing must be carried out in conformity with utmost respect for the human rights of all people regardless of the color of their skin, race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. That did not happen here. We all have a right to feel safe. The HRC shares a commitment to support a fair, open, and transparent process in understanding and review of this incident”.


Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who is preparing for a Gubernatorial bid released her own statement Friday, stating that the video was “concerning.”


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