SPRINGFIELD — A man who died after being shot and then hit by a the cruiser of Springfield police officer told 911 dispatchers he was lying in the middle of the road as police responded to the shooting, records obtained by News Center 7 show.
Eric Cole was shot and was found lying in the 1400 block of South Center Boulevard around 11:15 p.m. Sunday night.
“I’m in the middle of the street,” Eric Cole told 911 dispatchers as he reported being shot. “I’m about to die.”
Cole remained on the phone with dispatchers as you hear sirens in the background from cruisers approaching the scene.
“They just hit me,” Cole said.
“Who hit you?” the dispatcher asked Cole.
“The police,” he said.
Cole was flown to Miami Valley Hospital, where he later died from his injuries. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office has not yet said how Cole died.
A press conference Wednesday morning involving Springfield city leaders discussing the death of Eric Cole became heated during a question and answer portion when several family members directed questions to Police Chief Lee Graf.
Family members, including people who identified themselves as Cole’s mother and sister, were among those who spoke out during the news conference, questioning parts of the investigation and information shared with them in the first hours of the incident.
Police identified the officer who hit Cole as Officer Amanda Rosales, a two-year veteran of the department who is in her first job out of the police academy, Graf said. Rosales has been placed on administrative leave while the investigations are conducted.
Graf said three investigations have been opened as part of this incident. A criminal investigation into the shooting, which is being investigated by Springfield police. The investigation into the crash, where Cole was hit by Rosales’ cruiser, is being investigated by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The third is an internal police investigation opened by the department’s Professional Standards Unit.
Graf, along with other city leaders present during the news conference, promised transparency and thoroughness through the investigations.
Graf said there is no indication the shooting was directly connected to others in the city, but that portion of the investigation was still being worked.
The crash report from the Ohio State Highway Patrol has not been completed and is still under investigation, OSHP Sgt. Christina Hayes told News Center 7 Wednesday.
The final report from the internal police investigation will be made public when completed.
Graf said it is likely Cole’s death will not be officially ruled on until a full toxicology report is conducted, which typically takes weeks.
Graf said toxicology reports done by the coroner’s office after a death are standard, but stressed that part of the investigation is not being handled by his department and is being handled by coroner’s office investigators.
One point of contention during the press conference was when family members asked about why Cole was being subjected to a toxicology report after his death, but family members questioned if Rosales had been subjected to a breathalyzer test after the crash.
Graf said it is not department policy for an officer to be subjected to a breathalyzer test automatically after an accident, and only if there are signs of impairment. Graf said a department captain determined there was not signs of impairment with Rosales and she was not subjected to the breath test.
Graf added context, saying that the same is for normal citizens involved in crashes. If the drivers involved do not show signs of impairment after a crash they will not be given a breath test, he said.
Graf started the press conference with a timeline breaking down the incident chronologically. Officer were first notified around 11:16 p.m. Sunday about a disturbance that escalated into shots being fired. Officers were responding to the scene, when they were notified in other 911 calls that a person had been shot in 1400 block of South Center Boulevard.
Graf said the lead officer responding to the shooting report, who was Rosales, was trying to catch addresses on the houses, didn’t see that Cole was lying in the middle of the street, and ran over him.
Dispatch records from the Clark County dispatch center notes Cole told them he was lying in the street after being shot, however in emergency dispatch traffic that information was not relayed to the responding officers.
Graf said the cruiser cam footage, released publicly Tuesday, is designed to only look straight ahead, and does not follow the eyes of Rosales and what she might have been focusing on as she approached where Cole was lying and ultimately hit by the cruiser.
Officers are subjected to multiple, possible distractions inside their police cruisers, Graf acknowledged. Police radio traffic, laptops, cruiser-placed cameras all either provide stimuli that can cause distractions or limit sight lines and visibility out of the front of the cruiser, he said.
Officers are told to stay off their laptops while driving as much as possible, the chief said.
Graf stressed multiple times during the press conference that Cole being run over was an accident.
“This was an accident. It doesn’t mean its OK. It was an accident. This was not an intentional act on the part of the officer, I’m sure of that,” Graf said. “Nothing would indicate this was an intentional act on behalf of the officer.”
Graf said there have been other instances of citizens being hit by police cruisers in Springfield, including one estimated around a decade ago when a man was hit and killed by a police cruiser on Mechanicsburg Road, Graf said.
Also speaking during the news conference were representatives from the newly formed Community Police Advisory Team and Denise Williams, President of the Springfield Chapter of the NAACP.
Williams took to the podium just before the press conference concluded, stressing to the family members the agency will be involved in the investigations all the way through.
“I got you, but you have to trust us. We will get all the answers. We will ask all the hard questions and I guarantee there will be transparency,” Williams said.
She added a request for calm and peace among citizens while the investigations are being completed and work being done by the NAACP.
“We can’t do our work if there is violence in the streets,” she said.
FIRST REPORT (June 15):
A man who was shot in Springfield late Sunday night died from his injuries after he was also hit by a police cruiser responding to the shooting, according to a Springfield police spokesperson.
Police are expected to discuss the incident in a morning news conference. News Center 7 will be in attendance and this story will be updated with developments from city leaders.
Eric Eugene Cole, 42, of Springfield died at Miami Valley Hospital following the incident Sunday night. Police were called to the 1400 block of South Center Boulevard just after 11:20 p.m. on first reports of a person shot, the police spokesperson said in a media release Tuesday.
“Cole was lying in the street when he was struck by a marked cruiser as the officer arrived on scene in emergency response,” the spokesperson said.
Cole was found to be suffering from a gunshot wound to his arm and was first taken to Springfield Regional Medical Center, and was later flown to Miami Valley Hospital by CareFight medical helicopter, where he later died.
Cole’s cause of death was not released.
The officer involved in the crash was not identified by police.
“Members of the Springfield Police Division have met with Eric Cole’s family members concerning this incident,” the police spokesperson said.
The shooting incident is under investigation by Springfield police while the crash portion is under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
We’ll continue to update this story as new details become available.
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