Thursday, July 12, 2001

City agrees to settle with family of man slammed by officer

Alzheimer's patient was injured during incident at UDF store

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The city of Cincinnati has agreed to an out-of-courtsettlement in a lawsuit involving a Cincinnati police officer who threw an Alzheimer's patient to the floor during a 1999 arrest.

        The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but family attorney Donald C. Moore Jr., Wednesday described it as “substantial.”

        Robert and Mary Wittenberg of Silverton filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the city and and Police Officer Robert Hill, alleging the officer used excessive force when Mr. Wittenberg was injured during a Nov. 14, 1999, incident at a United Dairy Farmers store in Madisonville.

        In the incident, captured on the store's security camera, Officer Hill is seen approaching Mr. Wittenberg from behind, picking him up, and taking him to the floor. Mr. Wittenberg had wandered away from his home and was inside the store with a drill and a paint brush.

        As a result of the takedown, Mr. Wittenberg, then 68, sustained a fractured clavicle, punctured lung, multiple fractured ribs, a lacerated liver and fractures to his pelvis, his attorney said.

        Mr. Wittenberg, who was not charged with a crime, has been in a hospital or nursing home since the incident.

        “ Officer Hill was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off,” said Mr. Moore. “His own chief of police said that Hill's behavior that night was completely inappropriate. However, nothing was done to correct Officer Hill until Mr. Wittenberg was seriously hurt.

        “Hopefully, this settlement will convince the city of Cincinnati that it needs to establish a better system to monitor its police officers more closely.”

        Representatives of the city solicitor's office could not be reached for comment on the settlement Wednesday.

        A police internal investigation determined that Officer Hill had used excessive force during the incident and he was subsequently fired.

        The officer appealed the ruling and an independent arbitrator ordered him reinstated.

        The arbitrator said that the radio dispatch the officer had received about the incident had been misleading, making it a weapons run, and the officer had acted reasonably under those circumstances.

        In the lawsuit, attorneys for Mr. Wittenberg maintained that the city's early-warning system had failed to alert Officer Hill's supervisors that he needed close supervision and additional training.


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