Winter Storm impact: Northeast Ohio communities issue parking bans

Euclid NAACP calls for termination of officer in civil rights lawsuit

EUCLID, Ohio - In a statement the Euclid NAACP is calling for the termination of an officer at the center of a civil rights lawsuit.

A former Euclid resident filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court Thursday against the City of Euclid and Police Officer James Aoki for “false arrest, malicious prosecution, and excessive force.”

Attorneys representing 46-year-old Shajuan Gray say the hardworking PhD candidate is still traumatized by what happened the night of March 27, 2017.

“She had just taken a shower and was having family over for dinner. She heard a knock on the door,” said Attorney Sarah Gelsomino, representing Ms. Gray, “She just opened it a little to see who it was and it was a police officer.”

According to the police report, officer Aoki was responding to a noise complaint and told her to turn the music down which she did.

Aoki stated that she refused to give him her name and “proceeded to close the door on me.” At which point, he alleged a struggle ensued and Gray was arrested for obstruction, resisting arrest, and a noise disturbance.

A jury found Gray “not guilty” of all charges and Attorney Gelsomino, strongly refutes the officers' description of events.

She says, "Gray was brutalized and victimized for no reason and no crime."

She also added, "Gray immediately turned the music down and only wanted to get dressed before speaking with the officer, but Aoki would not allow her to do that." On police body camera video Gray is heard repeatedly asking for clothing but taken away wearing only a bath towel.

“He forced her door open, pushed her back, pushed her down on a freezer, her top fell down, so she was exposed, her breasts and stomach were exposed and while she face-down he was pulling her arms back aggressively to handcuff her,” said Gelsomino.

A neighbor had to help pull the towel up and cover her breasts as she was taken downstairs and put in the back of a cruiser.

“She was extremely humiliated,” said Gelsomino.

In August 2017, a Cleveland man was brutally assaulted while being arrested for driving with a suspended license in Euclid. Dashcam video recorded beating and went viral. Officer Michael Amiott was fired a few months later and the driver filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in federal court.

The most recent lawsuit filed on behalf of Shajuan Gray is seeking damages as well as sweeping changes within the Euclid Police Department in terms of training, screening, and use of force.

“The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages which is really is the only provision provided for under the law for her individual damages. The Monell claim though does give us the opportunity to seek declaratory and injunctive relief,” said Gelsomino, “So no one has to suffer again like Ms. Gray did and continues to suffer.”

The Euclid NAACP released a statement Monday saying, in part, "At this time, we are concerned about the serious offenses that have surfaced involving officer Aoki of the Euclid Police Department. The Euclid NAACP received information that there has been a lawsuit filed against officer Aoki for unconstitutional search and seizure and malicious prosecution... As we are conducting our own investigation to review any further civil rights violations against Ms. Shajuan Gray, we are taxing the Mayor and the Chief of Police to terminate Officer Aoki immediately. We also request that the City of Euclid work with the Euclid NAACP, as well as law and public policy experts to move forward in aggressively addressing necessary changes to to the city’s charter, ordinances and local legislations as a proactive measure. The City should be cognizant of the fact that continued bad practices are costly to the complainant, administration and taxpayers."