Friday, October 26, 2001

Punching of suspect angered officer

Cop says colleague hit handcuffed man

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Police Officer David Hunter was so outraged to see a fellow officer, Patrick Caton, punch a handcuffed man as he lay on the ground that he had to speak out.

        “He struck him in the lower back. I said, "What the ---- is he doing' or something of that nature,” Officer Hunter testified Thursday on the second day of Officer Caton's trial in Hamilton County Municipal Court.

        Officer Caton faces a misdemeanor assault charge and, if convicted, up to six months in prison for events surrounding the Nov. 7 death of Roger Owensby Jr., 29, of College Hill.

        Police chased and were subduing Mr. Owensby when, prosecutors say, an officer put him in a choke hold that led to his death by asphyxiation. Officer Robert “Blaine” Jorg is on trial separately for manslaughter.

        Prosecutors in Officer Caton's trial allege he beat Mr. Owensby with his fists after the man was subdued on the ground and later in the squad car.

        Defense attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker argued that an assault charge is only applicable if the assault victim is alive.

        For Officer Jorg's trial, he said, prosecutors are contending that Mr. Owensby was dead by the time handcuffs were placed on him, which is when his client is accused of having used force.

        “It was not deadly force,” Mr. Shiverdecker said during his opening statement.

        Officer Hunter provided key testimony in both trials, saying that if anyone used inappropriate force that night, it was Officer Caton.

        He said he saw the officer punch Mr. Owensby while on the ground and he saw him “swinging” at Mr. Owensby after he had been placed into a police cruiser.

        Mr. Shiverdecker said his client “never struck Roger Owensby outside the parameters of permissible force. The purpose of it was to get the suspect to comply.”


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