Thursday, September 28, 2000

Officer dragged 20 ft. after reaching into car

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — A police officer reached into the car of a man stopped for a traffic offense and was dragged more than 20 feet Wednesday.

        Police experts usually advise against such a tactic and Cincinnati Police Officer Kevin Crayon died Sept. 1 doing it.

        Middletown officials said it was too soon to rule whether the tactic was justified.

        Albert Lattimore, 22, of Middletown was arrested on a felonious-assault charge about 10:30 a.m. at a home in the 900 block of 18th Avenue.

        Officer David Birk and his partner, Geoffrey Getter, had stopped Mr. Lattimore at 2:50 a.m. Wednesday at 14th Avenue and Elm Street for suspicion of driving under suspension.

        A police statement said Mr. Lattimore refused to get out of the car and then put the car in gear to leave.

        Officer Birk then reportedly grabbed Mr. Lattimore through the driver's side window and tried to shift the car into park.

        According to the officers' report, the driver “placed his right hand on the officer's hand and arm on the gear shift,” then hit the accelerator, dragging Officer Birk before he fell free of the car.

        Officer Birk, 28, who has been on the force three years, suffered a strained shoulder and spine and was recovering at home.

        Police trainers have said the tactic of reaching into a car — presumably to switch off the car or put it in park — is generally inadvisable, but sometimes could be effective.

        Middletown police Maj. Mike Bruck said it was too soon to comment on Officer Birk's actions while details were being gathered.

        He decried the tendency to second-guess an officer's actions before the facts are in and said the suspect needs to be held accountable for his decision to disregard officers' orders and drive away.

        Meanwhile, police continue to search for the driver of another vehicle who tried to strike both the officers after the original incident.

        After Officer Birk tumbled away from Mr. Lattimore's car, the second vehicle accelerated toward him and Officer Getter, and tried to strike them, the report says.

        The pair safely reached the side of the road.

        Police were looking for a red Chevrolet Lumina bearing a temporary tag in its rear left window.

       Anyone with information about this car or its driver is asked to contact Detective Frank Hensley at (513) 425-7738.


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