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Video Of Dayton Police Dragging Disabled Black Man Out Of Car Sparks Outrage

A screenshot from police body cam footage of the incident with Clifford Owensby.
A screenshot from police bodycam footage of the incident with Clifford Owensby.

A disabled Black man was dragged out of his car by his hair last week by the Dayton Police Department during a traffic stop. The city’s police union said the officers followed procedure but others are calling for an investigation.

Dayton police said they stopped Clifford Owensby because they saw him leave a suspected drug house.

When officers told Owensby to get out of his car, Owensby said he couldn’t, because he is paraplegic and unable to walk. Officers then dragged him out of the car and handcuffed him on the street.

No drugs or weapons were found, but police said there was bag of cash containing $22,450 in the car which the K-9 "alerted" on, which police say means it was in the vicinity of illegal drugs at some point. Officers also removed a 3-year-old child from the backseat. Owensby was cited for having an unrestrained child in the backseat and for having tinted windows. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Local officials and political candidates have released statements of concern about the incident, and the Dayton Chapter of the NAACP said they are investigating the incident. A protest is planned for 8:30 a.m. this Wednesday morning during the Dayton City Commission meeting.

Following the incident, Dayton mayor Nan Whaley issued a statement raising concerns about Owensby's arrest and emphasizing that the city would be transparent in its review of what occurred.

"The video of this police interaction is very concerning," Whaley said in a statement provided to NPR. "That is why, immediately following this incident, the city released the body camera footage. Everyone involved is owed a thorough investigation, and one is already underway."

The Dayton chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is also investigating Owensby's arrest, according to the Washington Post.

"To pull this man out of the car, by his hair — a paraplegic — is totally unacceptable, inhumane and sets a bad light on our great city of Dayton, Ohio," president Derrick L. Foward told the newspaper.

But reaction to the body camera footage was mixed. Jerome Dix, president of Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #44, defended the officers' conduct, the Dayton Daily News reported.

"The officers followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures," Dix said. "Sometimes the arrest of noncompliant individuals is not pretty, but is a necessary part of law enforcement to maintain public safety, which is one of the fundamental ideologies of our society."

This story includes reporting from NPR.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Copyright 2021 WYSO

Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.