LIMA — A fight between two black teenage girls, broken up by a white off-duty Lima Police officer, and distributed through social media, has the Lima chapter of the NAACP claiming the action is a “continued assault on blacks in this community,” said Rev. Ronald Fails, president of the Lima chapter.
He claims there is a “use of excessive force [by Lima Police], especially against black females.”
In a news conference Saturday at Grace Worldwide Ministries, Fails brought out one of the two combatants in the fight. Apparently, the fight started at McDonald’s at Metcalf and Market Streets and spread south from there.
What were they fighting about?
“I honestly don’t know. But people keep saying it’s over a boy that likes me and I can’t do nothing about that,” said Dymin Stephenson, 14, who works at McDonald’s.
The officer, Sgt. Nick Hart, who was working security at McDonald’s kicked Stephenson in an effort to break up the altercation.
“I felt like he shouldn’t have kicked me,” said Stephenson.
An internal investigation concluded the police officer reacted with a “reasonable level” of force necessary to break up the fight.
“Sgt. Hart used an amount of force that was reasonable under the circumstances to keep those young ladies from harming each other. It was a very violent assault that they were engaged in upon one another. He took the quickest, swiftest action he could to break up the fight. It was successful. He did not continue after that,” said Chief Kevin Martin.
Fails didn’t see it that way.
“Chief Martin has never held his officers responsible; therefore he needs to be replaced by someone who will execute fairness. Furthermore, Mayor [David] Berger has never held Chief Martin responsible in his neglect to manage the Lima Police Department,” said Fails.
“Berger courted the black community for their vote but will not address issues that directly affects (sic) them,” said Fails.
Berger continues to defend the actions of police.
“The NAACP under the leadership of Mr. Fails continues to find fault where no fault is to be found. Sgt. Hart intervened in a very violent circumstance. He did so with a minimum of force and he did so effectively. He did as he was trained to do. The police department is being managed to, in fact, keep our community safe. That includes these two young women who were, if you looked at the video, dead set on really hurting each other, and I would think that the NAACP, if they were truly about the community, ought to be applauding the police — in this instance, Sgt. Hart — for having done his job in an effective way that prevented real harm from occurring,” he said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.