GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW)– Newly-released police body camera video shows a man with a mental illness being taken down to the ground, punched and tased by multiple police officers in Garfield Heights.
Kenta Settles, 28, was walking down the sidewalk on a snowy January night when the officers approached him and things quickly escalated. Settles seemed confused as officers called out to him and even asked, “What’s going on?”
Civil rights attorney Jeremy Tor said the officers didn’t explain themselves and the situation quickly escalated.
“They don’t explain what they’re doing, they don’t ask him any questions,” Tor said. “They’re very aggressive, they push and pull and tackle him to the ground. And immediately once he’s on the ground, they start punching him in the head and both tase him immediately.”
The father of three suffers from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD and ADHD. He had been trying to fill a prescription at a drug store on Turney Road when there was a misunderstanding between him and another customer.
Tor said Settles became scared and left the store. That’s when police stopped him.
Six officers eventually responded, including a sergeant and lieutenant. Some can be heard yelling obscenities and Tor said three used compressive force on Settles
“They put compressive force on his shoulders and legs for nearly 2 minutes. That’s the kind of compressive force that killed George Floyd,” Tor said. “And the kind of force that our federal court of appeals that governs here in Ohio had declared more than 15 years ago is unconstitutional.”
Settles, who suffered a chipped tooth, facial lacerations and rotator cuff injury, was arrested for felonious assault and obstructing official business. He was held for five months until last week when prosecutors saw the video.
A spokesperson said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley was shown the video on June 10 and by Friday, the case was dismissed.
Tor has now filed a civil rights violations lawsuit in federal court against all six officers and Garfield Heights for a pattern and practice of using excessive force.
“One can imagine the emotional stress this would cause any one of us, but particularly someone who suffers from psychiatric issues,” Tor said.
On Monday Garfield Heights Police Chief Robert Byrne responded to the situation in a video posted on Facebook.
The chief said officers were responding to two calls involving an attempted car jacking and armed robbery at the time.
“I bring this up not to suggest that this individual was involved in the crime, but rather to give you the mindset the police officers were in at the time,” Byrnes said.
The chief said Settles also exhibited resistance behaviors, grabbing the taser wire, and that an officer was struck in the face breaking his nose.
He also said the officers had no way of knowing Settles was mentally ill and that hindsight is 20/20.
“No use of force incident is ever going to look good. At the end of of the day, our officers are responsible for safety of community. That’s what our officers responded to do that night,” Byrnes said.
Tor said Settles wasn’t behaving violently and was caught off guard when police approached him. He had no idea why they were taking him down, the attorney said.
He said the entire situation shows excessive force and could’ve easily been avoided, if they had taken a moment to asses Settles and spoken to him about why they were stopping him.
Settles only response on camera afterward was, “Was that fair?”
“Mr. Settles is a voice for everyone who’s been a victim of police brutality,” Tor said.