Created on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 Written by AMANDA LEE MYERS,Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — A southeastern Ohio man alleges two police officers beat him and delayed taking him to a hospital after he complained of chest pains and fears he was having a heart attack following an unwarranted traffic stop two years ago, according to a federal lawsuit.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dennis Lehman of Athens accuses Nelsonville police Officers Duane Covert and Alex Brown of violating his civil rights and using excessive force. The lawsuit seeks $250,000.
Covert said Wednesday that he doesn't remember the April 2011 incident but that, "I'm not an abusive officer." He declined to comment further. Brown's number was unlisted, and a message left for him and Nelsonville police Chief Jason Wallace was not immediately returned Wednesday.
The lawsuit said that Brown pulled Lehman over on the afternoon of April 4, 2011, in a Nelsonville neighborhood, ordered him out of his truck and told him he was going to test his sobriety. Lehman has a disease known as familial mitochondrial degeneration, which causes lack of coordination and balance, and gives him droopy eyes, but he was not driving drunk, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Lehman asked Brown if he could move his truck further off the road, and when Brown did not respond, Lehman turned and walked toward the truck.
Lehman, 52, alleges Brown then cuffed and tackled him and, after Covert arrived, the two officers began "stomping and kicking" him for two or three minutes as he lie face-down, begging them to stop and telling them he was having chest pains.
Lehman complained of chest pain and feared he was having a heart attack, but the officers did not take him to the hospital until after booking him into jail on charges of driving drunk and resisting arrest, according to the lawsuit.
Although Lehman did not have a heart attack, he ended up being diagnosed with oxygen deprivation to the heart, ruptured cervical discs, back injuries, and wounds on his wrists and forearms from handcuffs, according to the lawsuit. He has no lasting effects from those injuries.
The lawsuit also says that Lehman's blood was tested at the hospital, which proved he was not on drugs or alcohol.
"(The officers) intentionally, wantonly, and maliciously used excessive force on Mr. Lehman" and "created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm," the lawsuit said. "Nothing Mr. Lehman did or said justified any use of force against him."
Nelsonville police pursued the drunken driving and resisting arrest charges, but records in Athens Municipal Court show that the first charge was dropped, and that Lehman pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and paid a $150 fine.
Lehman's phone number did not accept messages and his Athens attorney, Sky Pettey, declined to comment.