In a complaint to the Dayton Unit NAACP, the man accuses Dayton police of profiling, unlawful arrest, and illegal search and seizure of his vehicle.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of police violence that some readers may find distressing.
Recently released body camera video shows Ohio cops pulling a Black, paraplegic man out of a car by his hair after he informed them that he couldn't get out of the vehicle on his own. According to VICE, the September 30 incident began at about 12:30 p.m. when local police patrolling an area of the city with a "suspected drug house, spotted a white Audi leaving the residence and stopped the vehicle. Upon identifying the driver as a man named Clifford Owensby, they reportedly requested that a drug-sniffing dog be brought in to inspect the car based on his "felony drug and weapon history"—which included convictions for marijuana possession and gun possession.
Thread: "Police body camera footage showed officers in Dayton, Ohio, dragging Clifford Owensby out of his car as he yelled, "I’m paraplegic."" https://t.co/VmNVZLs782— Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) October 12, 2021
However, the search would require Owensby, who became a paraplegic after he was shot a few years ago, to get out of the vehicle. Although the man informed the police that he was physically incapable of getting out of the vehicle on his own due to his disability and that he didn't want cops to remove him, the traffic stop took a tense turn when an officer said he’d remove Owensby himself. "Sir, I'm going to assist you out of the vehicle, as someone assisted you getting into the vehicle," the officer can be heard saying in the bodycam video.
"You're definitely not about to touch me," Owensby responded.
Owensby then called someone to come to the scene, saying, "Bring some people with cameras," and asked the officer to call a "white shirt" (supervisor). "I'm going to pull you out, and then I'll call a white shirt," the officer is heard responding in the bodycam footage. "You can cooperate and get out of the car, or I will drag you out of the car. Do you see your two options here?" Seconds later, officers pulled Owensby out of the vehicle — with one of the cops grabbing and pulling him by his hair as Owensby cried out for help.
Police dragged a man with paraplegia out of his car by his hair in Dayton, Ohio, after he was pulled over for his car's window tints.— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 12, 2021
Clifford Owensby was pulled out of the car as his 3-year-old watched. pic.twitter.com/Vngqv0b7mA
"I'm a paraplegic, bro," Owensby said as the cops removed him. "I'm trying to tell you I got help getting in the car. Y'all can fu**ing hurt me!" He is also heard asking them to "call the real police." Owensby has since filed a formal complaint with the Dayton Unit NAACP over the incident. "They did not respect this man's rights, and I think can be made to pay for it," said his attorney, James R. Willis. "It's just that simple. They abused him." Willis called the case another example of "driving while Black."
This is so fucking maddening and sad yet so damn true. Just finished watching what they did to Clifford Owensby. I hope he sues the shit out of them but that wouldn’t be good enough. They should be arrested for assaulting a disabled man. 🤬🤬🤬 https://t.co/9uTHa8Vp2n— Vane_Xo🦋 (@vanessa_jjX) October 8, 2021
Meanwhile, police claim that Owensby had a bag of nearly $22,500 in cash in his vehicle. The police dog alerted the officers that the money had been "in close proximity to illegal drugs," the police said. However, speaking to The New York Times, Willis noted that it was not a crime to have thousands of dollars in cash. In a press conference earlier this week, Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick Forward said Owensby's complaint accuses Dayton police of profiling, unlawful arrest, and illegal search and seizure of his vehicle. "The officer who pulled him out by his hair should not be on the street today, in our opinion," he said.
Owensby, whose 3-year-old was present inside the car during the traffic stop, says he's had nightmares since the incident. In a statement last week, Dayton's interim police chief, Matt Carper, said that "we need to do better, and this can be done by further developing the mutual respect and accountability necessary to make our city safer." Carper also noted a local reform process in which cops will soon receive training in de-escalation, bias-free policing, and diversity.