A man suing a northeast Ohio police department alleges his rights were violated by an officer who slammed his head into a cruiser's windshield with enough force to crack the glass.
Dashcam video of the September 2014 arrest, obtained by NBC affiliate WKYC, shows 32-year-old Pele Smith, being escorted to the patrol car by four Loraine police officers while handcuffed. Smith's head then violently hits the windshield. The glass cracks from the impact.
"Why are you doing this to me?" Smith is heard saying as he is held on the car’s hood.
He was treated at Mercy Regional Medical Center for facial injuries, WKYC reported.
Smith was later charged with "tampering with evidence, obstructing official business and resisting arrest. In a plea deal with prosecutors, Smith pleaded guilty and received probation," according to court records WKYC reviewed.
Last month, Smith filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and several officers.
In his lawsuit, Smith says that Lorain Officer Zachary Ferenec, who was walking Smith to the cruiser and pushed him into the windshield, used excessive force during a 2014 arrest that he claims was warrantless.
"It’s unbelievable. It’s sad. It’s frightening that an individual while in handcuffs has something like that happen to them,” Mark Petroff, an attorney representing Smith, told WKYC.
Smith also alleges that three other Lorain officers at the scene did not intervene and that one of the officers, identified in the lawsuit as Michael Gidich, got in the back of Ferenec’s cruiser and “began to taunt and insult the bleeding [Smith]” while being transported in the patrol car for treatment.
The video does not show the beginning of the traffic stop.
Lorain police Capt. Roger Watkins said Smith swallowed suspected drugs and struggled with officers during the arrest, The Associated Press reported. He says the slamming of Smith's head into the windshield was unintentional.
In a statement, Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera said "During the arrest and Mr. Smith’s active resistance, he was placed on the hood of the police unit to gain control and conduct a search, as per policy." Rivera called Smith a "violent drug trafficker" and said the cautioned "observers to not rush to judgment relative to the actions of the police on scene."
But according to the Lorain County Clerk of Courts website, Smith has no felony convictions for violent crimes. He has prior convictions for drug offenses and possessing a firearm.
WKYC says it has requested all records associated with Smith’s arrest and any subsequent internal investigations. Lorain police have not provided any records related to the incident, the station says.