A Chesterland, Ohio man has sued the city of Athens and several Athens Police officers, alleging that an officer physically assaulted him “without justification” last year while he was a student at Ohio University.
In his lawsuit, plaintiff Jacob Francis, a resident of Chesterland (in Geauga County), 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.
The city of Athens has not yet submitted a response to this suit, which was filed in Ohio’s Southern District of U.S. District Court.
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.
“None of the defendants’ reports filed accurately indicated that the use of force used upon Mr. Francis was excessive,” the suit alleged.
The suit includes a demand for a jury trial, and for monetary compensation and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, in addition to attorney’s fees.
The suit also alleged that officer Doerr was not disciplined for any “misconduct,” and that the city of Athens’ training procedures for report taking and use of force is “inadequate.”
“There have been repeated complaints and notice to defendant city of Athens of constitutional violations by Athens Police officers,” the suit maintained.