You don’t need me to tell you that cops didn’t exactly take it too well when thousands of people marched in the streets last year to demand they stop being violent, racist assholes with authoritarian tendencies. Images from protests across the country showed that cops only doubled down on the racist, authoritarian violence, and now three police officers in Ohio are being charged with dereliction of duty for their actions during the Black Lives Matter protests in Columbus last year.
According to ABC News, Special prosecutor Kathleen Garber was appointed by the City of Columbus to conduct an independent investigation into the actions of Columbus police officers during the protests that arose following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer. As a result of the investigation Garber is currently conducting with retired FBI agent Rick Wozniak, Sgt. Traci M. Shaw, Sgt. Holly Kanode and Officer Phillip Walls of the Columbus Division of Police were charged with dereliction of duty on Wednesday. Additionally, Shaw and Walls are also facing charges of assault and interfering with civil rights.
“I was asked by the City of Columbus to independently evaluate the allegations of police misconduct from last summer’s protests so that both citizens and police officers are held to the same standard of accountability,” Garber’s statement read. She added that since the investigation is still ongoing, more officers may be charged in the future.
An affidavit written by Wozniak alleges that a protester was walking home with two friends on May 30 of last year when Shaw exited her police cruiser and pepper sprayed them without being provoked. Wozniak added that video taken by witnesses at the scene also backed the allegation.
“A video taken during this protest showed Shaw exiting her Columbus Police Department marked cruiser, walking up to individuals on the sidewalk and pepper-spraying these individuals,” the affidavit read.
From ABC News:
Walls was working as a bicycle police officer on May 30 when his own body camera showed him allegedly “pepper-spraying peaceful protesters who were standing on the sidewalk” in downtown Columbus, according to Wozniak’s affidavit. One of the protesters claimed he was pepper-sprayed by Walls as he was trying to help a demonstrator who had already been sprayed, according to the affidavit.
Kanode claimed that she assisted in the arrest of a female protester on May 30, 2020, after the demonstrator grabbed ahold of another officer’s equipment and tried to jerk him to the ground. A review of Kanode’s own body camera video contradicted the sergeant’s statement, according to Wozniak’s affidavit. In addition to the charge of dereliction of duty, Kanode is charged with the falsification of a report.
They were (allegedly) pepper spraying people for no fucking reason, and one of the officers (allegedly) lied about it—so of course they’re the real victims here, right?
Mark Collins, the attorney for all three officers, told ABC News that he’s “disappointed they are being made scapegoats by the city.” He added that the officers have all been put on administrative leave and they intend to “vigorously fight the charges,” with all three planning to plead not guilty during their July 8 arraignment hearing.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther released a statement on Wednesday condemning the actions of some of the officers during the protests. “While we were quick to make changes to our approach to nonviolent demonstrations — including use of force and chemical agents — the fact is some Columbus police officers acted outside policy, abused their authority and may have committed crimes,” Ginther’s statement read.