3 Ohio officers charged for excessive force during George Floyd protests

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“The officers have been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the criminal investigation”

Three Columbus, Ohio police officers are facing criminal charges due to their alleged misconduct and improper use of force against protesters last year at Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd.

The charges come after special prosecutor Kathleen Garber and independent investigator Rick Wozniak were appointed by the city to independently examine complaints against the Columbus Division of Police over the handling of protestors last summer. As reported by The Hill, Garber has announced “charges of dereliction of duty against the three officers, including two who have been charged with assault and interfering with civil rights,” the outlet wrote.

Officers Traci Shaw and Phillip Wallis have been charged with misdemeanor assault and interfering with civil rights. Both are accused of pepper-spraying peaceful protesters during demonstrations on May 29 and 30 in downtown Columbus in 2020. Sgt. Holly Kanode has been charged with dereliction of duty and falsifying information related to protesters’ actions toward another officer, according to the report.

According to an affidavit written by Wozniak, Shaw confronted a random group of people who were walking blocks away from a demonstration in downtown Columbus and pepper-sprayed them.

“This female officer (later identified as Shaw) got out of her car and walked right toward us and pepper-sprayed us,” the protester said, per Wozniak’s report. “We did not provoke the officer at all.”

Wozniak said the incident was captured on a cellphone by witnesses.

“A video taken during this protest showed Shaw exiting her Columbus Police Department marked cruiser, walking up to individuals on the sidewalk and pepper-spraying these individuals,” Wozniak wrote in his affidavit.

“I was asked by the City of Columbus to independently evaluate the allegations of police misconduct from last summer’s protests so that both citizens and police officers are held to the same standard of accountability,” Garber’s statement read.

“The officers have been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the criminal investigation,” the Columbus Division of Police said in a press release Wednesday. “Once the criminal investigation is concluded, the Columbus Division of Police will conduct an administrative investigation.”

Garber said other officers could be charged as the investigation is ongoing.

“We appreciate the community’s patience over the past year while we have made continued attempts to interview witnessing officers and identify officers committing the alleged misconduct during the protests,” she said.

Garber noted that her team is “continuing the investigations into possible misconduct by other officers,” and “will also continue with investigations with respect to identified officers pending the arbitrator’s decision.”

Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus said the investigation “is important, necessary work.”

“Answers and accountability are what the people of Columbus demand, and deserve,” he added.

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A protester holds a sign with an image of George Floyd during a peaceful demonstration over George Floyd’s death outside LAPD headquarters on June 2, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said the police “abused their authority” in response to BLM protests.

“And while we were quick to make changes to our approach to nonviolent demonstrations — including use of force and chemical agents — the fact is some Columbus police officers acted outside policy, abused their authority and may have committed crimes,” Ginther said in a statement on Wednesday.

The charges against the three officers come after a federal judge in April ordered that officers be barred from using flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and body slams against nonviolent demonstrators. The judge described the physical violence used on non-violent protests as “the sad tale of officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok.”

Jeff Simpson, executive vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police union in Columbus, said, “Our officers are some of the best trained in the country, and we welcome the accountability that comes with our job.”

“The Columbus Police Officers who have been charged with misdemeanor misconduct have the constitutional right to due process and are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Simpson continued. “We believe the officers acted appropriately within the scope of their duties.”

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