A man from Ashtabula, Ohio, is filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city and several of its police officers.
Brendan Hester, writes the Star Beacon, filed the federal suit with the Northern District of Ohio on Monday. The 24-year old man alleges that Ashtabula and two of its local officers, Daniel Gillespie and Spencer Gale, violated his 4th Amendment rights in a 2017 altercation.
Law enforcement’s recounting of what happened last summer is straightforward. In the early morning of June 2nd, police arrived at Hester’s home in response to an emergency call.
Hester, reports the Star Beacon, lived with his brother, his brother’s girlfriend and the woman’s 2-year old son. Officers were responding to a 911 dispatch, filed after the woman reported an armed intruder on the property.
Upon arriving, officers found two men ‘involved in a struggle’ inside the home. One of the two was Hester, who was holding a gun. Police told the man to drop the weapon several times, shooting him after he refused their order.
However, Hester’s family say the story isn’t so straightforward – that Gillespie, Gale and another officer charged through the front door, shooting Brendan without asking questions or issuing orders.
“After disarming and subduing the intruder, Brendan held the intruder at gunpoint while awaiting police arrival and assistance,” claims the lawsuit.
“Two white Ashtabula City police officers arrived at the home and burst into the doorway. Before giving Brendan an opportunity to tell them what was going on or drop his weapon, Defendant Daniel Gillespie opened fire upon him.”
Hester was hospitalized for months afterward and remains disabled.
“As a result of this shooting, Brendan suffers paralysis and permanent disability, and continuing psychological trauma,” says the suit, which is being coordinated by Cleveland attorney Jacqueline Green. She and Hester maintain that Gillespie and Gale “violated his 4th Amendment rights through the use of excessive force.”
Ashtabula is being held partially accountable for an apparent failure to properly train its police officers, with the suit citing “their failures in their training, their supervision, their policies, their customs and their practices,” all of which culminated in Hester’s shooting.
Nevertheless, Ashtabula City Solicitor Michael Franklin said the Attorney General’s office had already investigated the shooting. Neither he nor the AG found any basis for charges against the officer – a typical outcome in cases involving police violence.
“The shooting of Brendan Hester was an act of self-defense,” said Franklin.
“If Mr. Hester is competent to stand trial, it is my intention to file charges against him,” he said. “The only reason I have not done so to date is because of concerns I had about his competence.”
Hester’s attorneys suggested the shooting may have had racial overtones – Hester is African-American, while Gillespie and Gale are white. Lawyer Terry Gilbert, who’s representing Hester in the litigation, told the Star Beacon last year that “the family demands a thorough, unbiased and transparent investigation by the Ashtabula Police Department.”
Speaking from his wheelchair on Monday, Hester tried to describe how his life changed since last June.
“I can’t walk no more,” he said. “It’s been hard.
“Everything has been changed. It’s been a long process. I need help for just about everything. I can eat and drink by myself, but everything else I need help with.”