Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle defended the actions of three white Athens Police officers on Monday after video of those officers shoving an African-American University of Cincinnati student into the bricks of North Court Street late Saturday night, then forcefully subduing him, was shared thousands of times on Twitter over the weekend. That sparked local outrage over the officers’ actions.
The man – Ty Bealer, 21 – pleaded not guilty Monday to second-degree misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and obstructing official business.
Pyle defended the officers’ actions in a press conference Monday, and Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said that he believes the video in question had reinforced “misinformation” about the incident.
OU student Ajiyah Brooks shared the roughly 30-second video on Twitter Sunday morning, stating that “three police officers ran up on a group of boys beside a car on Court Street, and took down an African-American boy. Slammed him, punched him, and holding all parts of his body down when he wasn’t fighting back and was unarmed!”
The video got shared almost 8,000 times on Twitter as of Wednesday morning, with some of the responses alleging that the officers’ use of force was racially motivated, though others argued that the video didn’t show the whole context of the incident.
The video shared by Brooks doesn’t show the lead-up to the arrest as described by Brooks, but does show three white APD officers on top of Bealer, one with his knee in his back, forcing him into the ground and handcuffing him.
Chief Pyle said during the press conference Monday that his office is conducting an internal investigation into the use of force, as it does whenever officers use force beyond handcuffing somebody. Still, he said, from what he had seen so far, he believes the officers’ use of force was “justified” and “restrained.”
Pyle said that two officers arrived outside the J-Bar
on North Court Street around midnight Saturday in response to a person – identified as Bealer – being “ejected” from the bar, who returned and was causing “staff issues” outside.
“Officers were advised this person may have assaulted other patrons in the bar,” Pyle added in a follow-up press release issued Monday after the press conference.
The officers approached Bealer, Pyle recounted of the officers’ story, who tried to “resist officers” and “run away.”
Pyle said that alleged resistance resulted in an “altercation” that went to the ground.
“The person was arrested and… taken into custody and was offered EMS treatment for a small abrasion to the right hand and a Taser barb wound, which is standard operating procedure when a Taser is deployed,” Pyle said.
Several Ohio University student organizations spoke out about the incident Sunday and Monday.
OU’s student NAACP chapter called the use of force displayed in the video “extremely unnecessary.”
“Not only is this the WRONG PERSON, if it were a white student this would be a completely different situation,” the NAACP group tweeted. “We need to hold the police officers accountable for what they did to Ty Bealer.”
Pyle said during the press conference Monday that his officers were “confident” they arrested the right person, arguing that they matched Bealer with the description of the person causing a disturbance inside the J-Bar. Pyle said Bealer’s race had nothing to do with it.
“I don’t see racism in this incident,” Pyle said. “I just don’t.
BROOKS – WHO WAS PRESENT at the scene – painted a different picture of the police officers’ approach to Bealer. She said she saw the officers running down the street toward Bealer. Bealer asked, “what did I do?”, Brooks recounted, then one of the officers allegedly “pulled him and slammed him on (a nearby) car.”
“(Bealer) was punched and as well his face (was) slammed into the ground,” Brooks said.
A video posted by another twitter user in response to Brooks’ video appears to show a man – described by some as Bealer – shoving a bouncer at the J-Bar earlier in the night. The video does show him leaving the scene after a brief argument.
A friend of Bealer who was contacted by The NEWS – Zachary Davis – also said he was on the scene. He said Bealer was not causing a disturbance at the J-Bar, nor did he ever make it inside; Davis said Bealer actually was assaulted by somebody who came out from the J-Bar, and that person ran back inside quickly.
“Ty was punched in the face,” Davis said. “Someone from inside the bar… proceeded to come out, punch Ty in the face, and run back inside. That’s why Ty was outside and so mad, because the guy came out, hit him, and ran. We didn’t even make it inside the bar. Ty dropped his wallet right outside the door, and the bouncer started getting handsy with him when he went to pick it up. That’s what started all of this, and it only escalated from there.”
According to the charging documents filed against Bealer in Municipal Court Monday, he allegedly “pulled away from Police Officer (Ethan) Doerr and grabbed Police Officer (AJ) Spear while they were investigating the defendant for disorderly conduct.”
The other charging document alleges that Bealer “did fight with officers, grabbing ahold of Police Officer (AJ) Spear and kicking Police Officer (Ethan) Doerr.”
Pyle during the press conference said his office already has gathered multiple videos from the night in question, and said he believes those videos will be made public during the court process, but declined to release them otherwise.
The police officers in this incident were not wearing body-worn cameras, Pyle said. He and Mayor Patterson said the city is in the process of receiving a large shipment of body cameras, but because of a lack of availability of the person meant to train the police agency on the use of the cameras, they likely won’t be implemented until early December (the training official won’t be available until November, Pyle and Patterson said). Pyle said he and the officers in question “would have loved to have” had the cameras in this incident, arguing that it would bear out the officers’ account.
OFFICER DOERR IS THE subject of a lawsuit filed against the city earlier this year by a northeast Ohio man, alleging that Doerr used excessive force against him (Doerr has denied those allegations). You can read more about that suit below.
Chief Pyle said that the incident in question in that case has “no correlation at all” to the treatment of Bealer.
Davis (Bealer’s friend) said Bealer had “some bruising and bumps on his head from them elbowing and shoving his head into the ground.”
“They also Tased him the entire time he was down,” he added.
A “Coffee With a Cop” event planned for Wednesday at Donkey Coffee was rescheduled by the APD on Tuesday, Pyle said in an emailed announcement. He said that event will be postponed, and instead, the Joint Police Advisory Council is “partnering” with OU’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as the Black Student Cultural Programming Board, the NAACP at OU, the Black Student Union and the National Pan-Hellenic Council to present an “Ask the Chiefs” forum at the Athena Cinema on South Court Street from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
A group of activists and other concerned citizens had planned to show up to the originally scheduled “Coffee With a Cop” event to question the APD about Bealer’s arrest.
THE LAWSUIT FILED against the city and Doerr earlier this year by Chesterland, Ohio (in Geauga County) resident Jacob Francis – a former OU student – alleges that Officer Doerr physically assaulted him “without justification.” While the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern Ohio District, initially named other defendants (several other APD officers), those other defendants have been dismissed, according to court records.
Francis alleged that in an incident in late April 2018 he was “violently grabbed” by Athens police officer Ethan Doerr, then hit by a Taser when he tried to walk away from Doerr, “mysteriously travel(ing)” 15-20 feet away from where he was hit with the Taser, falling down three stairs, and striking a wall with his head.
Francis alleged in the lawsuit that officer Doerr did all of those things “without probable cause and justification,” after “aggressively approach(ing)” him (Francis) after he had a “loud discussion” with his friends in which he got angry on College Street in Athens.
According to the police incident report attached to the lawsuit, however, officer Doerr wrote that he saw Francis arguing in the street with a woman, allegedly striking a parked car several times, then taking a phone from the woman and throwing it against the second floor of a nearby residence. He then went into the bushes to retrieve the phone, the report said.
“Officer Doerr made contact with the male, and the male started walking south, failing to respond to officer Doerr,” the report alleged. “Officer Doerr attempted to grab hold of the male, at which time the male pulled away and used his right had (sic) to swing his fist back at officer Doerr, attempting to strike officer Doerr.”
In his suit, Francis denied that he tried to hit Doerr, and claimed that it was in fact his own phone that he threw into the bushes. He said he and his friends were heading back to their dorms to go to sleep for the night.
The incident report alleged that Doerr gave Francis “several commands” to stop before drawing his Taser and hitting Francis with the barbs from approximately five feet away.
“The male’s momentum carried him approximately 15-20 feet forward, where he fell down three stairs and struck a wall with his head,” the report stated.
Francis was unconscious for roughly 60 seconds, and had a laceration on his head, along with scrapes to his hands and face, the report said. He was then taken to OhioHealth O’Bleness, where Doerr served him with charges of underage consumption of alcohol and obstructing official business. Francis pleaded guilty to a charge of underage consumption of alcohol and a reduced charge of disorderly conduct several months later in 2018.
According to the suit, Francis had several fractures to his face, jaw and nose in addition to the laceration. He was transported to Grant Medical Center in Columbus and was admitted to the emergency department at that hospital. He also received surgery to have “his jaw wired shut and to have his scalp laceration repaired.” His jaw was wired shut for approximately 30 days, and then he returned to the hospital after that to have another surgery to remove the wiring, the suit said.
According to a copy of the use-of-force report into this incident, as provided by the Athens Police on Tuesday, the report was reviewed and signed by the police chief, captain, training officer and head of its investigative unit. Pyle confirmed Tuesday that Doerr was not disciplined for that incident.