No evidence police punched man in face or placed knee on his neck, Dayton Chief Biehl says

Cell phone video of Labor Day arrest prompts protest as city investigation continues

DAYTON — There is no evidence, from police officer body camera video, that a man arrested Monday in the Westown Shopping Center parking lot was punched in the face, Dayton Police Richard Biehl said in a statement released Wednesday night.

“There is no evidence that either of the arresting officers placed a knee on the arrested person’s neck,” the chief said in the statement. “There is no evidence that the arrested person incurred any significant injuries.”

Biehl said the only documented injuries were abrasions and the person was treated and released from a hospital and then booked into the Montgomery County Jail.

Cell phone video that has been shared on social media shows two Dayton police officers chasing a man through the shopping center parking lot and one officer punching the man as he attempts to place him in handcuffs. The video prompted about a dozen people to protest outside Dayton Police headquarters for what they described as an example of excessive force.

“One of the officers kneeled on his neck or somewhere to his neck and other officers started punching him,” said Donald Domineck, a member of Dayton’s New Black Panther Party.

>> Mayor Whaley announces working groups for Dayton’s police reform

Dayton police tell News Center 7 the 3-minute video is only the last part of a lengthy confrontation. News Center 7 requested and on Wednesday night received body cam video of the incident. The police department provided its timeline for the incident, which is included in its entirety at the end of this story.

Investigators said the officers saw the man run a red light at Hoover and Gettysburg, and pulled him over in the shopping center parking lot. They learned he was on parole for felonious assault.

“Officers explained to him the reason they would like him to step out and politely asked multiple times for him to get out," Dayton police said in a statement.

Biehl, in his statement Wednesday night, said, “it is worth noting that these officers professionally and patiently made repeated requests (about 12) and provided reasoning from the law to the driver regarding exiting the vehicle. This still did not result in compliance, and as a result required the officers to physically remove the driver from the vehicle.”

Police said the man, identified in a police incident report as 26-year-old George Lail, refused to get out and a struggle began. Lail has a 2010 conviction for aggravated burglary and felonious assault, court records show.

Officers managed to pull him out but as they tried to put handcuffs on him he ran. That led to the parking lot chase and dive to the ground. Police said Lail continued to resist and ignored commands to put his hands behind his back.

“One officer punched the driver three times in the right shoulder, which did not lead to compliance. The officer then utilized the taser, which led to the officers being able to handcuff the driver without incident," police said.

Police also said they discovered a handgun in the car’s center console. Lail’s previous conviction prohibits him from carrying a firearm, according to court records.

Wednesday morning, protesters said that discovery doesn’t excuse what they called police brutality.

“You don’t have to beat the hell out of him and put him in the hospital, it’s unnecessary,” Domineck said.

Derrick Foward, NAACP Dayton Unit president, said, “While all the evidence is yet to be determined, this is another incident that shows the need for body cameras that could provide a clearer picture of the interaction between police and members of the community.”

Police said Lail was checked at a hospital after complaining of a medical condition. An hour later, he was booked into jail on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, weapon possession as a felon (because of that previous conviction and for numerous traffic violations).

People at the morning said an incident like the Westown Shopping Center parking lot arrest doesn’t help the momentum of the five working groups the police department and community have established in an effort to reform the department and establish better police-community relations.

DAYTON CITY COMMISSION JOINT STATEMENT:

“We are aware of the video that has been circulating online of an arrest by Dayton Police at Westown Shopping Center. The police reform process that this Commission began several months ago was created not only to change policy but to examine and - hopefully - begin to repair a deficit of trust that clearly exists between our community and the police who serve it. Trust is certainly tested whenever there are use-of-force incidents between Dayton Police and citizens. Trust can only occur with transparency, and this Commission is committed to ensuring that all of the facts about the incident at Westown Shopping Center this weekend come to light. We are hopeful that the community members and Dayton Police officers who have been willing to engage in difficult conversations during this reform process will continue their work of making our community safer for all of our residents.”

DAYTON POLICE DEPARTMENT STATEMENT:

  • Just before 2 p.m., a 2-unit Dayton Police crew witnessed a white Dodge Durango fail to stop for a red light at Hoover and Gettysburg avenues. The officers attempted to catch up to the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop in the parking lot of the Westown Shopping center.
  • Officers approached the vehicle and made contact with the driver explaining why they stopped him and asked for his license and other documents. Officers returned to their cruiser, ran the driver’s information and determined he was on parole for felonious assault.
  • With this information, officers decided for safety reasons, to have the driver exit the vehicle while the citation(s) was written. The officers re-approached the vehicle and asked the driver to step out. The driver does not comply with the request. Officers explained to him the reason they would like him to step out, and politely asked multiple times for him to get out.
  • The driver continued to refuse to exit, so one of the officers reached in and tried to remove him from the vehicle. The driver partially stepped out of the vehicle but then leaned back in and reached for the gearshift as if to put the car into gear. The officer was able to turn the vehicle off and both officers then physically removed the driver from the driver’s seat. The officers attempted to gain control of the driver as he resisted, and a struggle ensued. The officers moved the driver to the front of the cruiser, using it in an attempt to gain control of him.
  • While attempting to handcuff the driver, he was able to slip out of the officers' grasp and took off running. One officer tries to deploy his Taser, but it was not effective. The driver ran through the shopping center parking lot and eventually fell in front of a store. Once on the ground, the driver continued to resist the officers by pulling his hands and arms underneath his body. The officers gave commands to put his hands behind his back, but they are ignored.
  • One officer punched the driver three times in the right shoulder area, which did not lead to compliance. The officer then utilized his Taser, which led to the officers being able to handcuff the driver without further incident.
  • The driver then complained of a medical issue. The officers immediately called for a medic from Dayton Fire to respond. The driver was taken to Miami Valley Hospital where he spent less than an hour and was then transported to jail.
  • The officers also immediately contacted their sergeant to report the Response to Citizen Resistance/Aggression/Non-Compliance (RTAR). Based on standard practice, the sergeant is now investigating the incident.
  • When officers took inventory of the driver’s vehicle, a black handgun was found sticking out of a panel in the center console, next to where the driver’s right leg would have been.
  • Due to a previous conviction, the driver is unable to legally possess a firearm.
  • The driver was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on the following charges:
  1. Carrying a concealed weapon
  2. Having Weapons while under disability
  3. Improper Handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle
  4. Parole Violation
  5. Issued multiple traffic citations