Man stomped by East Cleveland officer files suit over public records

I-Team

(Watch previous coverage of this story in the video player above. Warning: Some of the video may be difficult to watch.)

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) –  A man who was seen on police body camera video getting stomped on by an East Cleveland police officer has filed a lawsuit alleging the department has failed to turn over public records relating to the “brutal assault.”

Redrick Ward filed the lawsuit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on Thursday.

Ward’s attorney, David Nacht, said the suit was filed, “In order to bring to light the truth about the East Cleveland Police Department.”

“Not only does the city of East Cleveland have a terrible record with regard to police abuse of Ohio citizens, not only have they reinstated an officer, Nicholas Foti, who is on video kicking a handcuffed and face down citizen over and over in the head, but they withhold information and records that they are legally obligated to provide, information that belongs to the people of Ohio,” Nacht said. “ I believe the city’s efforts to withhold this information is part of a calculated strategy to sweep allegations of abuse and police brutality under the rug.”

East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons  told the I-Team Friday that the attorney did not pay $20.25 for the public records and that’s why the information was not sent to him.

However, Nacht sent the I-Team a copy of a check sent to East Cleveland for the records.  The check is dated April 21 and is for the exact amount requested.  The back of the check is stamped stating it was deposited in East Cleveland’s bank account.

“The Law Department never received the check so we have no idea who he gave it to or when. We make a copy of the check when it is given to us and the materials are picked up from us. Now that we know it was paid, he can pick up the materials, eg., Foti’s Personnel File, police report re: Mr Ward, Etc.  He already was sent the body cam, of course which was provided immediately…otherwise, everyone would not have it,” Hemmons later told the FOX 8 I-Team, after learning of the check.

The excessive force incident happened on April 1, 2020. City officials learned about the matter in March of this year after a public records request was made for the video. The officer involved, Nicholas Foti, was fired but earlier this month an arbitrator ruled Foti should get his job back.

“It is my opinion that the lag in time compromised the due process rights of the grievant,” attorney Bruce  B. McIntosh’s ruling stated. “Even though there were five officers at the scene, allegations of excessive force were not discovered for almost a year. It is hereby ordered that the grievant be returned to the city’s employ as an officer with the East Cleveland Police Department.”

Nacht said after they receive the public records, they plan to file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.

“The citizens of East Cleveland need to be aware that East Cleveland has a police misconduct problem.” Nacht said. “And all the press conferences from the city’s mayor and the chief of police mean nothing when they fail to act in good faith. Even the valiant efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement have thus far failed to alter the city’s approach to policing and its unwillingness to hold accountable those who use their badge as a shield to perpetrate violence.” 

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