COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Columbus Police Department is responding to claims officers maced an unarmed man with prosthetic legs at a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Columbus Sunday.
It happened when police tried clearing an intersection to allow traffic and clashed violently with protestors.
Now viral video shows a protestor on the ground with his prosthetic legs next to him. The man is in apparent distress and another protestor is calling for help.
Witnesses said the man had been sprayed with a chemical agent and had his legs removed while peacefully protesting.
“It was the most over the top police response I’ve seen,” said a witness who asked not to be identified but shared cell phone video.
Columbus Police are sharing a different side of the story.
“We absolutely did not do that,” said Columbus Police Sgt. James Fuqua.
On Monday, the department released body camera footage from three different officers and a fixed city camera showing the moments leading up to the incident.
The footage appears to show a man police said is the same protestor refusing to leave the intersection and throwing objects at officers, including at least two large wooden riot shields. One of those shields is caught on camera hitting an officer in the head.
“We are talking about someone who was demonstrating illegally and causing potentially a lot of bodily harm,” Fuqua said.
That’s when police said officers tried arresting the man in question.
Video shows other protestors pulling him away, and blocking officers.
“Officers did not take his legs, clearly seen in the body camera video, demonstrators would not even allow us to effect an arrest,” Fuqua said.
The man was not taken into police custody. It’s not clear if he was injured from pepper spray.
“We have time-stamped video showing he returned to the protest 20 minutes later,” Fuqua said.
The police want to remind people they support the right to protest, but to do so peacefully, and legally,
“The people who think we are out here trying to be rogue or trying to create a hostile environment for people is categorically false,” Fuqua said.
Columbus Police are still trying to identify the protestor in the video, although it’s not clear if he will face charges.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said earlier Monday the city is looking into the incident and requested any photos or videos taken by the public.
“I have seen the video and photo of the disabled man downtown last night. We are taking the matter very seriously and working diligently to find video, photos, and additional information,” he tweeted.