Courthouse News Service
DAYTON, Ohio - Dayton police "mistook" a mentally handicapped teen-ager's speech impediment for "disrespect," so they Tasered, pepper-sprayed and beat him and called for backup from "upward of 20 police officers" after the boy rode his bicycle home to ask his mother for help, the boy's mom says.
Pamela Ford says her "mentally challenged/handicapped" son Jesse Kersey, 17, was riding his bike near his Dayton home when Officer Willie Hooper stopped him and tried to talk to him.
The mom says that "Prior to the incident described below, defendant Hooper knew Jesse and was aware that Jesse was mentally challenged/handicapped and a minor child."
Nonetheless, Ford says, Hooper "apparently took Jesse's speech impediment for disrespect ... [and] began yelling at Jesse and after Jesse attempted to communicate with him[.] Jesse, being a minor and mentally challenged/handicapped, turned and rode his bike back to his home in an attempt to ask his mother, Ford, to help him communicate with defendant Cooper," according to the complaint in Montgomery County Court.
On the way, the mom says, "A neighbor attempted to communicate with Officer Hooper about Jesse's disabilities and was told to go back into his home, or he would be arrested."
As Ford opened her front door, she says, Hooper and co-defendant Officer John Howard, "fired their Tasers, striking Jesse in the back with both probes."
"Once inside the house, defendant Hooper and defendant Howard began to struggle with Jesse, who was standing against the back door with his hands up in front of his face, saying 'Please quit, please quit.'
"On numerous occasions, Ford and a family friend, Christopher Peyton, informed Officer Hooper that Jesse was mentally challenged/handicapped, and that Jesse did not understand what was happening," the complaint states.
But the mom says the cops continued their assault: "Officer Howard utilized his Cap-Stun pepper spray and sprayed Jesse ... [and] struck Jesse with a closed fist in the upper chest area.
"Officer Howard utilized his ASP and repeatedly struck Jesse in the upper left side of his left thigh.
"Back-up units were requested to Jesse's house, wherein upward of 20 police officers from different jurisdictions were present.
"At no point, even after being advised of Jesse's mental challenge/handicap by Jesse's family and numerous bystanders, did defendant Hooper, defendant Howard, or any other police officer present, attempt to communicate with Jesse or explain in terms he could understand as to why Jesse was being chased.
"Jesse was handcuffed and hogtied before being placed in the back of a police cruiser.
"Jesse was charged with assault on a peace officer, resisting arrest, and obstructing official business."
However, "Jesse was declared incompetent by the Montgomery County Juvenile Court and the charges against Jesse were dismissed."
Jesse and his mom seek damages from the city and the two lead officers, for false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, battery, excessive use of force, infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.
They are represented by Richard Boucher.