Five Columbus police officers remain under investigation from summer protests

NBC4 Investigates

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Five Columbus police officers are under investigation for use of force complaints related to their actions during clashes with protestors Downtown last summer.

NBC4 Investigates’ Jamie Ostroff secured 49 reports from the law firm Baker-Hostetler and found eight complaints against five officers that were substantiated by evidence.

The five officers remain on the job.

Here are summaries of the incidents:

• Multiple cameras captured an officer using pepper spray on a woman and shoving her to the ground. The officer told an attorney with Baker-Hostetler that he remembered using the pepper spray but not shoving the woman. The law firm determined the use of force to be a violation of department policy, but Mike Woods — now interim police chief — disagreed, and the sides agreed to constructive counseling for the officer’s failure to report the use of force

• An officer used pepper spray on protesters who were sitting, and investigators said the use was justified based on multiple warnings officers gave. The officer allegedly violated department policy by not reporting the incident, but he said he had told a superior whom he thought would handle the report. No further action was recommended.

• Investigators substantiated three complaints against an officer who failed to de-escalate a situation. In one, he told a protestor, “I’ll blast you in the mouth.” In another, he punched a protestor in the head. And he used pepper spray on protestors who had already been hit by chemicals. The officer said in response, respectively, that his words were “unorthodox” but “effective,” that he targeted an individual who was assaulting officers, and that he mostly sprayed people who had masks or shields.

• An officer was shown dragging a woman who was sitting on a curb into the street, which investigators said was unnecessary. The officer told the woman she was under arrest for spitting at officers, and he said she was resisting, so he used a technique that he had been trained to do.

• An officer was shown shoving a woman in the neck after investigators said he threw her phone. She was recording him. The officer said the woman was encroaching on him and refused to comply with his orders.

Disciplinary action is pending in the last three incidents. 

All five officers have filed a court complaint to attempt to block the investigation. On Thursday, six Columbus police officers were ordered to be interviewed as witnesses.

Mayor Andrew Ginther is out of this week and was unable to comment. Woods declined an interview request through a representative.

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