Garfield Heights police facing lawsuit for forceful arrest of African-American man with claims of mental illness (graphic video)
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Newly-released body camera video shows several Garfield Heights police officers involved in an arrest of a 28-year-old man who says he suffers from mental health disorders.
Kenta Settles is now suing the officers involved and the city of Garfield Heights in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court stemming from the January 2020 arrest.
**WARNING: This video contains explicit language**
Both Garfield Heights Police Chief Robert Byrne and court filings say the arrest occurred on Jan. 23, 2020 following an incident with Settles and a drive-thru customer at the CVS on Turney Avenue.
“Garfield Heights officers approached my client from the outset with antagonism and hostility," said attorney Jeremy Tor.
The lawsuit claims that Settles was waiting in line at the CVS drive-thru to pick up his medication. A driver in line showed Settles a firearm and honked is horn in an attempt to get him out of line.
Chief Byrne disputed that claim, saying Settles tried to pull an individual from their car, leading police to believe it was a possible carjacking attempt.
Settles left the CVS and was later approached by the Garfield Heights police officers.
“What happened at the CVS was a simple misunderstanding that frankly could have been cleared up if the officers treated Mr. Settles with the dignity and respect that he and everyone in our community deserves," Tor told 19 News.
A physical altercation between Settles and the police officers ensued on the ground before the 28-year-old man was eventually handcuffed and taken into custody.
Settles and some of the officers sustained minor injuries during the arrest.
In the bodycam footage, obtained by 19 News on Tuesday, one of the officers emerged with a bloody nose. He told another officer he believed it was broken and that he was punched by Settles.
“Are you crying?" the officer asked Settles. "Oh, poor baby. You shouldn’t [expletive] hit cops, [expletive].”
“I don’t see any point in time where Mr. Settles punched Officer [Michael] Malak in the face. I’m not sure how he ended up with a bloody nose," said Tor, after reviewing the video.
As Settles was standing beside a police car, after he was handcuffed, one of the officers could be heard telling him, "All you had to do is stop and talk to this and none of this would have happened."
“You didn’t ask me to talk,” Settles replied.
Chief of Police Byrne released a video statement about the arrest and lawsuit.
“Our officers are not afforded 20/20 hindsight when they respond to calls," he said. "No use of force looks good, but in this situation, I believe our officers acted appropriately.”
“They applied compressive force to his shoulders, back and legs for almost two minutes. The same type of compressive force that killed George Floyd. Fortunately my client did not die,” Tor said.
According to the lawsuit, Settles suffers from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, and ADHD. The police chief said there was no way for responding officers to know that Settles suffers from mental health disorders.
Settles was booked on charges that include assault and obstructing businesses. Records from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas show that he was held in jail until those charges were dismissed without prejudice on June 12.
Because charges were dismissed without prejudice, prosecutors could still refer the case back to a grand jury.
Tor said he’s unsure what prosecutors plan on doing, as far as seeking new charges.
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