(Reuters) - A Black paraplegic man has accused the Dayton, Ohio Police Department of racially profiling him and of brutality after officers stopped his car and dragged him out by his hair onto the road after hearing the man could not use his legs.
Over the weekend, Clifford Owensby, 39, said he had filed a complaint via the civil rights group the NAACP with the police department over the arrest on suspicion of a drugs crime, which took place on Sept. 30.
"They dragged me like a dog, like trash," Owensby said at a news conference on Sunday, calling the treatment inhumane and saying he had done nothing wrong. "It was total humiliation, it was hatred at its purest fashion."
On Friday, Dayton police released a statement and body-worn camera video recorded by an arresting officer, saying the department had been working to improve "community and police relations" since June 2020, when protests filled cities around the world in outrage over George Floyd, a Black man, being killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
In the statement, Dayton police said officers had been observing a "suspected drug house" and stopped Owensby after seeing him depart from the house in his car.
The video shows Owensby explaining the 3-year-old boy in the back is his son before handing over his identification, which police said revealed he had been convicted of illegally possessing drugs and guns. The officer tells him he has to get out of the car so it can be checked by a drug-sniffing police dog.
"I can't step out the car, sir, I'm a paraplegic," Owensby says in the video.
"Well, I'm going to help you get out," the officer says.
"I don't think that's going to happen, sir," Owensby replies, asking to speak to a police supervisor. The men argue, with Owensby saying "there will be a lawsuit" if police lay hands on him; he calls someone on his phone, telling them to come to the scene and record the unfolding episode.
The officer becomes exasperated: "You can cooperate and get out of the car or I can drag you out of the car: do you see your two options here?"
One officer pulls Owensby out by his hair. Owensby screams for help as officers handcuff him prone on the road. He is dragged away down the road with his pants falling down around his ankles, revealing his underwear.
A bag containing $22,450 in cash was found in Owensby's car, which the sniffer dog indicated had been near illegal drugs, Dayton police said in its statement. It said it was investigating the episode.
Owensby told reporters he was returning cable TV boxes to the cable company from a property he manages. He said the money was savings, that no drugs or weapons were found in his vehicle, and he was not charged with any drug-related crime. Local media said he was charged with resisting arrest.
Dayton police did not respond to questions.
"This is a total disregard for human life," Derrick Forward, president of the NAACP's Dayton chapter, said at a news conference on Sunday alongside Owensby. Forward said police did not read Owensby his rights. Owensby said he is preparing a lawsuit against the police.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)