COLUMBUS (WCMH) – NBC 4 has never before seen video at the heart of a federal lawsuit dealing with the kind of police “crisis response” addressed in Mayor Andrew Ginther’s letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.
A ruling in the case could come any day now, a case in which 26 people accuse Columbus Police of excessive use of force during protests last summer.
The plaintiffs claim they were non-violent, protesting peacefully, and following orders from police when they were nonetheless victims of excessive force.
Lead attorney in the case, Frederick Gittes, said people need to believe what they can see with their own eyes.
“There were many officers on repeated occasions, who hurt, attacked, gassed, shot with wooden bullets, falsely arrested non-violent protesters. many of whom were actually obeying instructions to move or leave the area,” Gittes said.
All of the video comes from exhibits that were shown in federal court, including police body cam video of a bicycle officer rolling toward Broad and High streets, where they would hit people with the bikes and indiscriminately spray chemicals in their faces.
No one on the sidewalk appears to be threatening or aggressive.
“I don’t care what the training is,” Gittes said. “I don’t care what the rules are. It is illegal. You can’t do it.”
One portion of the video shows a protester wearing a full gas mask, appearing to comply with orders to disperse from police. His back is to police as he walks away, when an officer rips off his gas mask. The protester shoves the officer who ripped off his mask, and is thrown to the ground and arrested.
Body cam video shows the officers celebrating the arrest with fist bumps.
“He didn’t like me taking his mask off,” the officer says in the video. “Yeah, I’m fine. I took his mask off. He didn’t like it.”
There is body cam and bystander video of a woman Gittes said was not there to protest.
“And you can hear her calling out, ‘I need to find my daughter, I need to find my baby,” Gittes said.
She ended up getting sprayed.
“This lady has done nothing, this lady has done nothing,” one person says in the video. “they have done nothing wrong! They did nothing wrong. They did nothing wrong.”
“She ends up getting sprayed multiple times, chased by the police,” Gittes said. “She doesn’t do any, she’s not throwing anything. She is not resisting, she’s talking to them.”
As the woman is chased by police, she falls, with one officer allegedly calling her a b**** and pushing her back down on the ground after she tries to get up.
Gittes said the actions seen by officers on the tapes do not align with police protocols.
“They don’t’ align with the general rules banning excessive use of force,” he said. “The biggest issue surrounding all of this is the total lack of accountability for the officers, and this is historical here in Columbus.”
In the federal lawsuit, in addition to monetary damages, the plaintiffs are asking for a federal injunction which can range from the court banning the use of certain weapons to making sure there is not a problem identifying officers to requiring suspensions or urgent action for a clear misuse of force.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther would not comment since he was a witness in the case, and City Attorney Zach Klein said he can’t comment specifically on a pending case, but did say:
“We took real-time action to hold officers accountable.
“Separately, based on the same sort of conduct, the City hired an independent investigator, a former FBI agent, and my office hired an independent prosecutor to review allegations of officer misconduct for possible criminal charges.”Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein