Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin did the right thing Monday in asking an independent agency to determine if an LPD officer acted appropriately in the tasing of a Black teenager.
Martin has said in the past that he believes the Lima department is fully capable of conducting non-biased investigations. Maybe that’s true. But to have done so in this case would have been an invitation for trouble.
Things were already tense.
A video of the incident appeared on social media, prompting Lima City Councilman Jamie Dixon to issue a statement saying that Martin and Lima Mayor David Berger have ”got some answering to do because this is not how we train our police officers.”
The four youths involved met with Ron Fails, president of the Lima Chapter of the NAACP, who also voiced his concern but cautioned people about drawing conclusions too quickly.
Yet, that’s what the Fraternal Order of Police Lima Lodge No. 21 did Sunday when it issued a press release saying the tasing was justified.
At that point Martin turned over the investigation to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, explaining, “We have an obligation to ensure the investigation is done with integrity and all sides are being looked at.”
The incident involved four Black teenagers who were playing their music loudly after midnight in the parking lot of the Taco Bell restaurant on Allentown Road, where one of them reportedly worked. An officer using the drive-through reportedly called in a loud music complaint and asked for backup. Things escalated into a tense situation when officers ordered the music to be turned down. Video shows the teens became belligerent, swearing at the officers, and during the exchange, one of the teens, Manuel Maldonado, was tased.
Police reports identify Scott Leudeke as the LPD office who discharged his Taser. According to Leudeke’s written narrative of the incident, he believed Manuel Maldonado was attempting to retrieve a weapon from his pocket “due to the fact he was fighting with officers and resisting their arrest. I believed he wanted to gain possession of a weapon and try to use it on them.”
Maldonado, on his Facebook page, said, “All I was doing is trying to do is give them my I.D., folks. They were trying to get us for a music complaint. Lima police department escalated all because I was trying to comply.”
Could this situation have been avoided if either side acted differently? We await that answer from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.