Independence Day fireworks will return to Toledo on July 2

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Jun. 9—The city of Toledo will have a downtown fireworks display in honor of the Fourth of July holiday after all, though it will be on Friday, July 2.

Toledo City Council on Tuesday passed last-minute legislation to appropriate $30,000 to a Huron, Ohio-based vendor the Kapszukiewicz administration said has enough supply on hand to produce a fireworks show in July.

"It was never a question of desire, never a question of funding, never a question of health restrictions," Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said in a news release. "We always wanted to have 4th of July fireworks, but our vendor told us that delays in the supply chain would not allow him to put on a show. So, basically, we went out and found a new vendor, and I couldn't be happier that we are now going to have a proper celebration in downtown Toledo on 4th of July weekend."

Legislative Director Gretchen DeBacker said the new vendor, American Fireworks, is a wholesale fireworks company that also has the ability to put on a display and so is not running into the same supply chain issues the city's longtime vendor Starfire Corporation and many others are experiencing.

City officials on June 3 had announced the Fourth of July fireworks celebration would again not be possible this summer, after canceling the 2020 fireworks show because of coronavirus concerns.

Ms. DeBacker during Tuesday's city council meeting said the administration connected with the new vendor that morning and reached an agreement for a July 2 event.

City council unanimously approved the $30,000 expenditure at the tail-end of the meeting with little discussion. An additional $30,000 is being raised privately to cover the full $60,000 cost, the mayor said.

In other business Tuesday, city council approved a $20,000 settlement with a Wauseon resident who alleged in federal court that he was injured by Toledo police during an arrest.

Jeremy Spiess, 37, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on May 8, 2019 regarding an Aug. 10, 2017 arrest where he contends he was tased without warning and punched multiple times, though police officers involved and a medical report detail a different account of the incident.

The lawsuit names the city of Toledo and Toledo police Officers Benjamin Cousino, Steven Walker, Joseph Petro, Samantha Snowberger, Jason Wallace, and Terry Cousino. An amended complaint filed July 7, 2019 states that Spiess was walking to a nearby store in the early morning hours to purchase cigarettes before the police stopped him.

"On his return home, Plaintiff heard screeching car tires coming from behind him; and being frightened that the noise was associated with criminal conduct, Plaintiff proceeded in the opposite direction," court documents state.

The complaint goes on to contend the officers did not identify themselves or warn Spiess that he would be tased. It also states that Spiess was on the ground with his hands behind his back when Officer Benjamin Cousino used his Taser on him before putting him in handcuffs.

"As Plaintiff was asking what was going on, Defendant Benjamin Cousino kept pushing on Plaintiff's head and then punched Plaintiff on the side of the face," the amended complaint states. "Then Defendant Benjamin Cousino punched Plaintiff in the back of his head multiple times with what felt to be Defendant Benjamin Cousino's fist."

But charging documents stemming from Spiess' arrest that day state that officers were responding to a call about a suspicious person looking into people's back yards.

"The defendant led this officer and other officers on a dangerous foot pursuit. The defendant also charged this officer, wrestled with this officer, and refused to put his hands behind his back," said the complaint filed in Toledo Municipal Court.

Spiess was charged with resisting arrest, which was dismissed, and obstructing official business, for which he was found guilty.

The city denied any wrongdoing related to the incident, and in its response to Spiess' lawsuit in federal court stated that any injuries or damages to Spiess were caused by himself.

"Any actions taken by any police officers which may have affected Plaintiff were in all respects reasonable, proper, lawful, and undertaken in good faith and with probable cause and in execution of statutory duties imposed by the Ohio Revised Code," the city argued.

A report from ProMedica Toledo Hospital included in the federal court filings states Spiess "was running form the police when he was tased and fell down a 10-foot rocky hill," causing leg, arm, and neck pain.

City officials also argued that the named officers are entitled to qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that largely shields police officers from being held financially liable for violating a person's constitutional rights.

Spiess was seeking damages in excess of $75,000 and requested a jury trial, but the two parties agreed to settle the case, a move city council approved unanimously. The $20,000 payment will come from the city's risk management fund, and the city does not admit any liability.

First Published June 8, 2021, 4:59pm

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