Lawsuit: Lima cops jump the gun

By Greg Sowinski -

LIMA — A Spencerville man is suing the Lima Police Department saying officers stopped him, assaulted him and arrested him because of an NRA sticker on the back of his recreational vehicle.

William Stanfield filed the lawsuit this month in Allen County Common Pleas Court seeking more than $25,000 in damages. He names as defendants the city of Lima, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin, and Officers Bryce Garman, Aaron Montgomery and Aaron Rode as defendants.

Stanfield, who is now 70 years old, said he was arrested Oct. 4, 2013, on property he owns at 1111 S. Union St. He said police officers violated his constitutional rights including free speech under the First Amendment to display the sticker, which actually is for the National Racing Alliance, a group of people who race sprint cars, not the National Rifle Association, according to the lawsuit.

“He was targeted because of the sticker on the rear window of his RV indicating membership in the NRA,” the lawsuit said. “The decision of defendant officers to investigate Mr. Stanfield and his RV was motivated, in whole or in part, by the presence of the ‘NRA’ sticker on the rear of the RV.”

Stanfield said officers used excessive force, assaulted him, and he was a victim of malicious prosecution to cover up the illegal actions of the officer, the lawsuit said.

He was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. A judge later ruled “officers did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion that Mr. Stanfield had committed a crime, so as to justify a traffic stop.” Charges were dismissed. Prosecutors appealed and lost, according to the lawsuit.

Stanfield said officers injured him when he was struck in the ribs by an officer using his knee, and also struck by an officer with a flashlight.

The three officers named were involved in Stanfield’s arrest. Martin is named because as chief, the lawsuit said, he oversees the agency, and is responsible for departmental policies and ensuring officers are properly trained.

The incident happened after Stanfield was driving his recreational vehicle and pulled into a vacant lot on South Union Street. He said Officer Garman pulled in behind and shined a cruiser light on his RV observing the NRA sticker. Garman then pulled away, according to the lawsuit.

Montgomery and Rode were nearby and watched Stanfield. Someone asked Garman over the police radio if he had probable cause for an arrest and Garman said no, according to the lawsuit.

While Montgomery and Rode were watching Stanfield, one officer asked the other, “Do you know what was on it? NRA. Let’s see if we’ve got guns in there,” according to the lawsuit.

Garman returned and pulled up behind the RV and the other two officers approached. By that time, Stanfield was outside his RV with his dog on a leash. Police asked if he was drinking and attempted to arrest him, according to the lawsuit.

Stanfield was taken to the ground and told to put his arms behind his back, which he said he could not. He said officers had control of his arms. Garman then delivered several knee strikes to Stanfield’s ribs and Rode struck Stanfield with his heavy flashlight, according to the lawsuit.

Stanfield was taken to the Lima Police Department where he said officers slammed him into a chair repeatedly making his injuries worse. He then was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a broken rib and sprained shoulder, according to the lawsuit.

He said he still has pain from the injuries, according to the lawsuit.

Martin declined comment, as did Lima Law Director Tony Geiger.

The police report on the arrest said officers were called about a large RV in the area with a possible intoxicated driver behind the wheel.

Montgomery said in his report the area was known for prostitution and drug activity. He said he never saw the RV before in that neighborhood so it was odd that it was there.

Officers followed it until it pulled into a vacant lot north of 1111 S. Union St. Garman said he approached to check the vehicle and the well-being of the person inside.

Montgomery said he became concerned when he saw the “NRA” sticker that weapons may be involved.

Garman said he asked Stanfield to step out of the vehicle and he refused. Stanfield said he owned the property and that Garman did not need to be there. Garman reported smelling alcohol on Stanfield.

Stanfield showed Garman a silver badge, which Garman said worried him that Stanfield may have a gun on him. Officers later found out Stanfield did not have any weapon on him but also noted Stanfield was uncooperative during questioning and his arrest.

Officers arrested Stanfield for drunken driving, impounded his recreational vehicle for safe keeping because his belongings were inside and it was a high-crime neighborhood, according to the police report.

At the police station, Stanfield was not cooperating with officers and asked for a “some professional courtesy, I am a retired correction officer,” according to the police report.

Stanfield submitted to a breath test and tested at 0.14 percent blood-alcohol content, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 to drive in Ohio, according to the report.

Officers found an unloaded lever-action rifle in Stanfield’s recreational vehicle inside a rear closet. The report did not say any live rounds were found in the vehicle.

By Greg Sowinski

Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.

Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.

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