‘It’s unbelievable to me that an officer of the law did this to me,’ Gregory Love told the Guardian. ‘They are the people you’re supposed to call on to get protection.’ (photo: Spangenberg Shibley & Liber)
Shot in the Chest by Cleveland Police - Then Handcuffed and Fined $100
By Jon Swaine, Guardian UK
07 December 14
When a man pointing a Glock pistol approached Gregory Love’s car in downtown Cleveland late one night, Love did the only sensible thing possible, he says: he put up his hands and decided to let the man have what he wanted.
But Vincent Montague shot him in the chest anyway, according to Love, before having the 29-year-old forcibly removed from his silver Range Rover and his hands fastened together behind his back.
Blood from the bullet wound seeped through Love’s white T-shirt. He grew colder, despite the warm June air. “I actually thought I was going to die,” Love told the Guardian. “I felt faint. I saw blood coming from my chest. I thought he was just going to kill me right there.”
Eighteen months later, Love recalls his alleged assailant clearly: he was wearing the uniform of the Cleveland Division of Police. The only person prosecuted following the altercation was Love, who was fined $100 for a traffic violation. Montague was suspended from work for a day.
Brandon Vason, who knew Love and was in the area, walked up and remonstrated. Other police officers punched Vason in the head and threw him to the ground, Vason alleges. Then, he says, they kicked him, cuffed him, put him in the back of a patrol car, and drove him away.
The men, who are both black, are now suing the city, police chief Calvin Williams and officers involved through the federal courts, claiming civil rights violations.
Their case is just one among a number that caused Eric Holder, the US attorney general, to sharply censure the Cleveland department this week. A damning report by his Justice Department accused city officers of being “chaotic and dangerous” in their use of force.
The dossier, prompted by a series of complaints, was published only a day after the funeral of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by a rookie Cleveland officer last month, while playing with a plastic pellet gun in a park. It has since emerged that the officer was in 2012 judged to be unfit for a suburban force, where his gun handling was viewed as “dismal”.
Holder’s 20-month federal inquiry reviewed almost 600 incidents over three years. It found that Cleveland officers “violate basic constitutional precepts in their use of deadly and less lethal force at a rate that is highly significant”. A 13-year-old boy was repeatedly punched in the face. A semi-naked hostage was shot at as he fled his captors.
Criticising the department’s use of firearms, Tasers and pepper spray, the report also accused officers of frequently using excessive force against people suffering from mental illness. Holder said the US government would use powers it received after the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police to obtain a court order legally compelling Cleveland to change its ways.
Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s senior US senator, said the report’s findings were “troubling” and proved that “meaningful, systemic change” was required at the police headquarters. Mike Brickner, the senior policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, agreed, but told the Guardian: “Frankly, people who live in Cleveland and have experience with the police are not necessarily surprised by it.”
Coinciding as it did with demonstrations over the killings of the unarmed African Americans Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri, the department’s report on Cleveland gave some official voice to resurgent protests around the US against perceived police brutality, particularly among black Americans.
“Even if you have the best law enforcement officers, who enter the force for the best reasons, if they meet the vacuum of leadership, inadequate training and lack of accountability like we see in Cleveland, then they can not possibly do their jobs appropriately,” said Brickner.
Love, mentioned in the report under the pseudonym “Nathan”, was stopped by Montague, a five-year veteran, on 23 June last year in Cleveland’s bustling warehouse district. Love tried to turn on to a street that he said he did not realise was closed because several other cars had just turned on to it. Love said he did not know they had special valet tags and Montague refused to answer when asked why Love, too, could not proceed.
Cleveland’s police and city legal department declined to comment on the case. But in a response to the lawsuit filed to court in March, Montague said Love responded in a “belligerent, aggressive, and verbally threatening manner”. He also claimed he had noticed Love and his passenger, Dunja Biggins, speeding around earlier in the night, and that Biggins was standing through an open sunroof “generally creating a disturbance”.
Footage from a traffic camera shows Love slowly reversing his SUV back out, but then seeming to become blocked by a crowd crossing the street, which was busy as bars emptied following a Mary J Blige concert. Montague, who claimed in his response that Love was reversing in an “excessively fast and out-of-control manner”, approached the vehicle and drew his gun. The March filing said the officer acted because he concluded Love was drunk. Love’s lawyers said he was never tested and this was the first time the allegation had been made.
The lawsuit states that Love and Biggins “had their hands raised above their heads” and avoided “sudden or furtive gestures or movements”, yet Montague pointed his gun and threatened them before leaning into the driver’s window to take the keys from the ignition. Montague insists that Love’s hands were not up and that his right hand remained at his waist. A Vine video filmed by an onlooker appears to show Love raising at least one hand.
Love said he tried to explain to the officer that the ignition was on a central console rather than the steering column. “After failing to locate the keys with his hand,” the lawsuit claims, “Montague took a few steps back, pointed the muzzle of the service weapon at Greg Love and Dunja Biggins, and opened fire into the cabin of the SUV”.
Montague, by contrast, says that he “instinctively pulled back” and opened fire because as he leant in for the keys, he felt Love “reach his right hand for [Montague’s] service weapon”.
Nicholas DiCello, an attorney for Spangenberg Shibley & Liber, representing Love, said they had seen no evidence that Love reached for the weapon, and suggested that his client would have been charged with a more serious crime if he had done so. Love has past convictions for a drug offence and theft.
“Oh my God, you shot him,” Biggins screamed. The bullet entered Love’s chest above his right nipple, exited his body and then lodged in one of his arms. “You just shot me!,” Love says he shouted. “I wasn’t doing nothing!”
He said Montague seemed “totally irate” and called for backup. Another officer arrived and handcuffed Love, who said he was made to stand beside the vehicle, bleeding. “I was so confused,” he recalled. “I just got shot – why am I in cuffs?”
Vason alleges that after he approached the scene, an officer punched him on the head, which appears to be supported by the surveillance footage. The officer, alleged to be Octavio Gaviria-Sanchez, is then seen pinning Vason on the street with several colleagues. The lawsuit alleges the officers kicked and struck Vason before handcuffing him and driving him away from the scene, then dumping him nearby without any charge.
In a response filed to court with two other officers, Gaviria-Sanchez said: “Vason was subject to a brief and justified detention for officer safety and safety of others due to Vason’s aggressive and unlawful actions.” The officers denied punching, kicking or striking Vason.
After paramedics arrived – and, according to Love, angrily ordered police to release him from handcuffs – Love was taken to a hospital. Yet officers accompanied him, photographing and questioning him even as he received treatment for a bullet wound. They also blocked relatives from having access to him. “They were treating me as if I was a homicide suspect,” said Love.
Medics, meanwhile, told Love he might have died if the bullet had ricocheted off one of his ribs in the other direction. The 9mm shell was finally removed from his arm about six weeks later, when it was plucked out bearing traces of the fabric from his shirt. “The doctors were amazing,” he said. “I’m blessed”.
Love has been left with thick scars. He said that he takes prescription painkillers and sees a psychiatrist once a month, reduced from a peak of twice a week.
“It’s unbelievable to me that an officer of the law did this to me,” he told the Guardian. “They are the people you’re supposed to call on to get protection yet they almost took my life. It makes you lose faith.”
In reporting the shooting, local television news stations described Love as a “male suspect” and said Montague had been “forced to open fire during a traffic stop”. Jeffrey Follmer, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, has even said Love was shot as he “tugged” on the officer’s gun. Follmer did not respond to a request for comment.
Love was ultimately charged with making an illegal right turn, and fined $100 plus costs. Montague was suspended from work for a day, with a further two days held back barring another disciplinary issue.
“The police in Cleveland have the mindset that they are above the law,” said Love.
© 2014 Reader Supported Newshttp://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27300-officer-who-fatally-shot-tamir-rice-deemed-unfit-for-duty-in-2012
Tomiko Shine holds up a picture of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy fatally shot on 22 November by a police officer, during a protest in response to a grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Missouri. (photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP)
Officer Who Fatally Shot Tamir Rice Deemed Unfit for Duty in 2012
By Tom McCarthy, Guardian UK
04 December 14
Timothy Loehmann criticised by small Ohio force for breaking down while handling live gun and his performance was called ‘dismal’, records show
A police officer who shot a 12-year-old dead in a Cleveland park late last month had been judged unfit for police service two years earlier by a small suburban force where he worked for six months, according to records released on Wednesday.
Officer Timothy Loehmann, who killed Tamir Rice on 22 November, was specifically faulted for breaking down emotionally while handling a live gun. During a training episode at a firing range, Loehmann was reported to be “distracted and weepy” and incommunicative. “His handgun performance was dismal,” deputy chief Jim Polak of the Independence, Ohio, police department wrote in an internal memo.
The memo concludes with a recommendation that Loehmann be “released from the employment of the City of Independence”. Less than a week later, on 3 December 2012, Loehmann resigned.
In March of this year, Loehmann was hired by the Cleveland police department. It is unclear whether the department had seen the Independence memo at the time of Loehmann’s hiring.
“I have not received any instruction about it, and I have not received the file” from Independence, said Sgt Ali Pillow, a Cleveland police spokesman. He said the Cleveland department had not commented on whether it had seen the memo from Independence before Loehmann was hired.
On a Saturday afternoon last month, Loehmann and a partner, Frank Garmack, were dispatched to Cleveland’s Cudell Commons Park after a 911 caller reported “a guy” in the park was pointing a “probably fake” gun at people. Surveillance video recovered after the incident showed Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old, handling a pistol-sized pellet gun.
Loehmann shot the boy dead within two seconds of a police car driven by Garmack arriving to the park and pulling to a stop within feet of the child. In the video, released by Cleveland police a week ago, Loehmann appears to fire his gun as he opens the door to leave the police car.
Loehmann has been taken off patrol duties in Cleveland and the shooting is under internal review.
The Independence police memo describes an episode in which a supervising officer suspended gun training with Loehmann after Loehmann had an emotional breakdown about a girlfriend.
“During a state range qualification course, Ptl Loehmann was distracted and weepy,” Polak wrote, naming the trainer as Sgt Tinnirello. “[Loehmann] could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal. Sgt Tinnirello tried to work through this with Ptl Loehmann by giving him some time. But, after some talking it was clear to Sgt Tinnirello that the recruit was just not mentally prepared to be doing firearm training ...
“Ptl Loehmann continued with his emotional meltdown to a point where Sgt Tinnirello could not take him into the store, so they went to get something to eat and he continued to try and calm Ptl Loehmann. Sgt Tinnirello describes the recruit as being very downtrodden, melancholy with some light crying. Sgt Tinnirello later found this emotional perplexity was due to a personal issue with Ptl Loehmann’s on and off again girlfriend whom he was dealing with till 0400 hrs the night before. (Pti Loehmann was scheduled for 0800 the morning in question).”
Some of the comments made by Ptl Loehmann during this discourse were to the effect of, “I should have gone to NY”, “maybe I should quit”, “I have no friends”, “I only hang out with 73-year-old priests”, “I have cried every day for four months about this girl.”
In recommending Loehmann’s dismissal, Polak listed what he said were other performance shortcomings, including Loehmann’s having left his gun unlocked, lied to supervisors and failed to follow orders.
“Due to this dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress, I do not believe Ptl Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment,” Polak concludes. “For these reasons, I am recommending he be released from the employment of the city of Independence. I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”
© 2014 Reader Supported News
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs