COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Council authorized a $440,000 settlement Monday night in an alleged excessive force case, which involved one of the city’s police officers and a 2018 arrest he performed that stemmed from a traffic violation.
The council voted unanimously to settle with 27-year-old Cameryn Standifer at its weekly general body meeting. Standifer filed a civil lawsuit in federal court after Columbus Division of Police Officer Brandon Harmon arrested him for a traffic violation in 2018.
During the arrest partially caught on body camera footage, Harmon swiftly took Standifer to the ground. Standifer’s attorneys have argued the arrest re-aggravated prior injuries from a car accident and resulted in MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant cause of a staph infection — among other lasting effects.
The settlement includes a denial of wrongdoing on Harmon’s part, Columbus City Attorney Chief Counsel Lara Baker-Morrish said. George Speaks, the city’s deputy director of public safety, called the case a “unique factual situation.”
“I believe this settlement today is a fair resolution, without a jury deciding in total favor of one party, and to the total detriment of the other party,” Speaks told councilmembers.
But Councilmember Nick Bankston questioned Baker-Morrish on why the settlement dollars would come out of the city’s general fund, rather than the police’s seizure fund.
“When mistakes are made like this, it costs taxpayers dollars,” Bankston said. “My vote tonight is a procedural one.”
August 2018 arrest at core of settlement
In August 2018, Columbus police officers responded to a neighbor’s noise complaints at an east-side apartment on Stornoway Drive South, according to court documents. One of Standifer’s roommates allowed the officers to enter the apartment.
At the request of Columbus police, some of the people sitting inside the apartment living room gave officers their Social Security numbers and other identifying materials. That included Standifer, who had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation from four months earlier.
Body camera footage from the incident, which was shared with NBC4 by the plaintiff’s attorneys, then shows Harmon beginning to arrest Standifer and telling him not to tense. Within seconds, Harmon takes him to the ground, as one woman begins to call out: “He just had surgery.”
Three months before the arrest, in May 2018, Standifer was involved in an unrelated car accident, which left him with “extensive and severe injuries,” including a “disfiguring wound” on his lower left leg. By August, he was still recovering, court documents alleged.
Directly following the August arrest, medics brought Standifer to Mount Carmel for an assessment, and he was then taken to the Franklin County jail for the night.
Days later, he went to the emergency room at Grant Medical Center with pain from injuries he sustained during the arrest process, where he was diagnosed with MRSA, according to court documents.
“The way in which he was arrested led to this entire case,” plaintiff attorney Jessica Olsheski said in an interview. “It was brutal. It was excessive.”
Olsheski said she is relieved with the outcome of Standifer’s case.
“He went through an awful lot of physical and emotional pain as a result of this incident,” she said.
Settlement reached before jury delivered verdict
Just before Thanksgiving — during the case’s days-long trial in November 2022 — Standifer’s attorneys and the city’s attorneys reached the settlement council voted on Monday. That agreement materialized before the jury returned with a verdict, but after 12 hours of deliberating, according to Olsheski.
Baker-Morrish told councilmembers Monday the city was willing to settle because of concerns about a hung jury.
Standifer’s attorneys first filed in July 2019, and while the original court documents named other defendants within Columbus police and the city, Harmon was the sole excessive force defendant by the end of legal proceedings.
The city has settled a number of civil cases involving its police officers in recent years, including as recently as January when it greenlit a $225,000 settlement.