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City Attorney Drops Charges Against Man Punched By Columbus Officer

Body camera footage shows of a Columbus Police Officer who punched a man on Heyl Avenue last week.
Columbus Police Division

UPDATE: On June 28, City Attorney Zach Klein dismissed charges against Jonathan Robinson. Read our original story below.

A weekend incident on Columbus’ South Side is forcing city officials and residents to once again wrestle with the lines of justifiable use of force by police officers.

In a late night press release Monday, Columbus Police shared nearly an hour of footage from body and dashboard cameras capturing the June 7 incident. From a number of angles, it shows an officer punching 25-year-old Jonathan Robinson in the neck.

A woman Robinson identified as his wife can be seen approaching a house, and police order her to stop. As officers approach the woman, Robinson advances. He stops short of the officers and can be heard saying, “Or what?” to one officer’s repeated orders to “get back.”

At that point, another officer approaches and pushes Robinson away. After Robinson turns to face him, the officer swings and hits Robinson in the neck.

Tynan Krakoff, from the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), believes Columbus Police officers coud have defused the situation.

“I think the police could be better trained to deescalate,” Krakoff says. “I think that so many times that they know, going into a lot of incidents, that there might be people who are aggressive, but so often we just see police come in and escalate things.”

He notes incidents like these further alienate communities from police.

“You know, the police are always talking about how they need to restore trust and that people are losing trust," Krakoff says. "But I think so many people in Columbus, and around the country, never had trust in the police for exactly this reason.”

In a written statement, Mayor Andrew Ginther’s office said that “the incident reinforces the need for transparent police-community relations.”

Columbus Council President Shannon Hardin called for patience in his own statement.

“We must continue to improve police and community relations to create an environment where every resident in every neighborhood feels safe,” Hardin says. “As we await the results of the investigation, we must remain steadfast in supporting the development of a high-quality public safety division that treats residents with dignity and respect.”

The mayor’s statement notes Columbus invested in body cameras both to help solve crimes and to be more transparent. Meanwhile, the city is currently searching for a new police chief.

“Mayor Ginther has been very clear in what he is looking for in the next chief of police,” the statement says. “Someone who will use the recommendations of the community-led Safety Advisory Commission as a roadmap to guide the Division’s approach to neighborhood policing and improve community-police relations.”

Columbus Police are declining to comment on the incident until an investigation concludes.

This story was originally published on June 11, 2019.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.