Ashtabula man sues city, police officers after police shooting

ASHTABULA, Ohio – An Ashtabula man is suing the city and two police officers after he was shot by one of them.

In the civil rights lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Monday, Brendan Hester claims the shooting was unjustified and that the officer used excessive force when he shot Hester in his home, leaving him paralyzed.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the City of Ashtabula and Ashtabula Police officers Daniel Gillespie and Spencer Gale.

On June 2, 2017, officers responded to a call of an armed intruder at a home on West 38th Street, where Hester said he was living with relatives.

Hester said he was holding the intruder at gunpoint until police arrived when the officers broke in and Gillespie shot him in the back and chest.

At the time, Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell said in a press release that the officers encountered two men involved in a struggle and one had a gun. In the release, Stell stated “he was ordered to either lower or drop the weapon and did not comply.”

Hester’s attorney, Jacqueline Greene, said he did not have an opportunity to put the weapon down.

“Before he knew it the door burst open and shots were fired,” Green said. “There are conflicting reports from people in the area about what was said prior to the shooting happening. It all happened very quickly and Brendan did not have any opportunity to put the gun down. He didn’t even see the police before he was shot.”

After an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a special prosecutor presented the case to a grand jury which declined criminal charges against the officer.

Hester said he was hospitalized for six months and has been left unable to walk and with lifelong injuries.

“I couldn't talk for a while, for like 4 months. I couldn’t eat, drink. It was hard. Everything was hard,” Hester said.

Greene said the lawsuit also alleges the officers wrote false and misleading reports to cover up their actions.

“The city and this police department engaged in policies, practices, and customs and failures to train and supervise their officers which resulted in the events that we saw here,” Greene said. “At the time Brendan was shot, he did not pose a threat to anybody, and there is absolutely no justification for this shooting.”

In an e-mail, Ashtabula City Solicitor Mike Franklin said the City had not yet been served with a copy of the complaint.

“The lawyers for Mr. Hester are attempting to try the case in the press, which is usually a sign of a lack of confidence that there will be success in court. It is a tactic normally used to frighten the defendants into a settlement,” Franklin said in the statement, adding that the claims are without evidentiary support and the City is confident the officers will be vindicated.

Stell declined comment on the lawsuit. The officers’ personnel files indicate neither officer faced internal or administrative discipline as a result of the shooting.