East Cleveland police supervisors said they had no idea one of their officers stomped on a man’s head after a brief pursuit over a misdemeanor traffic stop last year.
It was only after the man’s attorney made a public records request for the body camera footage that supervisors say they discovered the incident showing patrolman Nick Foti stomping on Redrick Ward’s head.
However, body camera footage shows at least one of the officers on the scene wearing a patch on his sleeve indicating a higher rank than the other officers. Not exactly a sergeant but perhaps a corporal or master patrolman, depending on the department’s rank system which are usually different than military ranks.
The video shows he was giving orders to the other officers as part of his supervisory role – but evidently never reported the incident. There were also two other officers holding the man down as Foti stomped on his head who also acted as if the head stomping was just business as usual.
In fact, one officer followed the head stomp with several punches of his own to the man’s back as he kept a knee down on his neck. A perfect example of what a former East Cleveland police detective once testified was a “culture of violence” in the department that was part of his “on-the-job training” before he was forced to resign in disgrace (more on that below).
But East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner told local media he was “astonished” over the incident and not only suspended Foti but has asked the United States Department of Justice to investigate him for possibly criminal charges.
According to Fox 8:
“I know this is completely out of our policy and procedure for an officer to do that, and I believe it to be criminal,” Gardner said.
Gardner said an internal review is underway and Officer Nicholas Foti is on paid leave, per the union’s policy. Gardner said he also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the matter.
“Despite this disturbing video, I just want people to trust the process,” said East Cleveland Cpt. Ken Lundy. “We have an internal process.”
According to East Cleveland Municipal Court records, the suspect was found guilty of misdemeanor traffic offenses and ordered to pay a fine.
The incident took place at 2 a.m. on April 1, 2020 after police say they suspected Ward of driving under the influence after spotting him driving on the sidewalk.
It was a short pursuit that averaged about 25 mph but officers treated Ward as if he had just led them on a high-speed chase through several towns after committing an armed robbery, shattering his window with their batons before dragging him out of the car and forcing him facedown on the street.
Ward is subdued and crying out in pain when Foti walks up and stomps his foot down on his head twice before walking away. None of the officers bat an eye.
Despite the cops accusing him of being drunk, Ward was never charged with driving under the influence. The 37-year-old man ended up paying a $125 fine after pleading no contest to speeding in a 25 mph zone and driving with expired or unlawful license plates, according to court records. Police say he did not exceed more than 40 mph, if even that.
Foti, who has been with the department since 2016, has been sued twice before in unrelated incidents including one incident where he and two other officers, Derek Stephenson and a cop named Welms, arrested a woman riding passenger in a car after accusing her of being in the country illegally on July 16, 2019.
The woman, Marie-Louise Kouassi, was from Africa and spoke with an accent, according to the lawsuit, which helped them determine she was in the country illegally. They detained her for seven hours, including three hours sitting in a jail cell before driving her to a federal immigration center where she was immediately released because it turns out, she was in the country legally.
However, Kouassi filed her lawsuit pro se meaning she was representing herself and she failed to list specific Constitutional violations by each individual officer named in the suit which is why a judge dismissed the case in 2019.
In the second lawsuit, a man named Joshua Bradley accused Foti and three officers of beating and tasering him as he suffered a mental health crisis on November 4, 2018. The other officers mentioned in the suit are Welms and Stephenson who are mentioned in the suit mentioned above as well as a patrolman Woodside. That suit is still pending.
In 2016, the same year Foti was hired, East Cleveland Police Detective Randy Hicks testified about the “culture of violence in the East Cleveland Police Department,” blaming it on his actions in 2012 when he kept an innocent man locked in a closet for four days after beating him – solely on the basis he was driving a truck similar to a truck driven by an unnamed drug dealer.
That man, Arnold Black, was awarded a $22 million settlement in 2016 but the city appealed the decision, asking for a new trial where it could present more evidence, resulting in another trial and another jury awarding him a $50 million settlement.
The following is testimony from Hicks who no longer works for the department describing the agency’s “culture of violence” from the appellate court’s decision which you can read here.
Hicks testified that there was a culture of violence in the East Cleveland Police Department. He explained that as part of his on-the-job training, he was taught to use violence against citizens in order to obtain information from them and to instill fear. (Trial tr. 83-84, 87.) Hicks explained that when he was a patrol officer, he and Spotts were part of group known as the “jump-out boys.” (Trial tr. 90.) Whenever they encountered citizens gathered on a sidewalk, they would jump out of their cars, throw the citizens on the ground, and beat or “boot” them. (Trial tr. 90.) Hicks was also taught to “clear the corners” by slamming people against police cars, searching them for drugs without probable cause, and if they did not find any drugs, making it “inconvenient for them.” (Trial tr. 91.) The officers “made it inconvenient” for citizens by “strip[ping] them down in the middle of winter” and making them stand naked in the cold. (Trial tr. 91.) They stripped people naked on a “daily” basis. (Trial tr. 91.) Hicks testified that he would not have been promoted if he had refused to engage in these violent tactics. (Trial tr. 95.)
East Cleveland is a suburb city of Cleveland about three square miles in size with a population of less than 20,000 with a police department of less than 100 officers.
Watch the shortened edited video above and the full video released by East Cleveland police who did not release video of Ward driving on the sidewalk as they originally claimed.