Kentucky Civil Rights Lawyer Chris Wiest just filed a federal lawsuit in Ohio alleging multiple constitutional violations occurring during the arrest of Demetrius Kerns, which was caught on viral bodycam footage. You may have seen Chris on some of my prior videos. He joined me to talk about the footage and the lawsuit.
Tanner Rhinehart of Newark, Ohio, taunted the local police on their Facebook page after they failed to capture him on an arrest warrant. Eventually they caught up to him and taunted him right back. Here’s the bodycam footage.
Here are some screenshots of the social media interactions:
This footage was submitted by a homeowner in Loraine, Ohio, showing police officers enter onto a woman’s private property and refusing to leave. They demand that she send her kids outside, because the officers allege that they observed them jaywalking. Her doorbell footage shows otherwise. I’ve previously discussed what you need to know when police are at your door.
Under the “knock and talk” exception to the warrant requirement, a police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is “no more than any private citizen might do.” This means there is an “implicit license . . . to approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then (absent invitation to linger longer) leave.” An officer may also bypass the front door (or another entry point usually used by visitors) when circumstances reasonably indicate that the officer might find the homeowner elsewhere on the property. “Critically, however, the right to knock and talk does not entail a right to conduct a general investigation of the home’s curtilage.”
Police officers, and anyone else really, have an implied license to come onto your property and knock on your door. This implied license can be revoked. Homeowners can prevent ordinary citizens and police officers alike from conducting a knock and talk by revoking their implied license to be there. However, few citizens know that an implied license exists. Generally, the courts require that a homeowner do so by clear demonstrations or express orders. For instance, asking someone to leave or refusing to answer questions.
On February 15th, 2023 I was operating as a member of the Lorain Patrol Impact Team targeting high crime areas throughout the City of Lorain, Ohio. I was driving an unmarked Ford Taurus equipped with emergency lights and sirens. I was also dressed in plain clothes with “Police” identifiers displayed on the exterior of my vest, making myself readily identifiable as a Police Officer. It should be known that ATF Special Agent Fabrizio was also in my patrol vehicle at this time. On this date at approximately 1539 hours, we were patrolling the intersection of W. 27th Street and Reid Avenue. It should be noted that on 7/26/2022 a shooting had occurred between a group of juveniles in the area of 126 W. 27th Street and the surrounding area is a known hot spot for shots fired incidents and weapons violation complaints. While patrolling this intersection, S.A. Fabrizio and I observed three males who appeared to be juveniles with there hands in both hooded sweatshirt pockets and their waistbands while looking around their immediate area. Through my prior training and experience, this type of behavior is an indicator that the person may be both armed and checking their surroundings.
S.A. Fabrizio and went around the block to the intersection of W. 27th Street and Broadway Avenue and observed the males illegally cross the road not in a posted cross walk and began approaching the residence of 126 W. 27th Street. Due to this observed traffic violation, I approached the above listed residence and activated my emergency lights and sirens in an attempt to initiate a traffic stop for this violation on the three individuals while they were approaching the house in the front yard. S.A. Fabrizio exited the passenger side and advised the males to stop and to come back to our patrol vehicle. The males acknowledged our presence by looking back at our patrol vehicle and quickly made their way up the front steps to the residence and entered and refused to exit. A female (later identified as Mary Hildreth) came to the front door and began yelling at both S.A. Fabrizio and I as well as asking what we were doing and what the problem was.
Here’s yet more footage showing police officers who misunderstand the concept of reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is necessary for a police officer to detain someone against their will. This includes traffic stops. There are limits to the length and scope of any such detention. Of course, those limitations depend on the seriousness and nature of the criminal violation suspected.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from prolonging a traffic stop beyond the time necessary to investigate (and write a ticket for) a traffic violation unless the officers have reasonable suspicion that the stopped vehicle’s occupants are engaging in other crimes. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 354-56 (2015). Officers may detain the driver only for the time necessary to complete the tasks associated with the reason for the stop. The Supreme Court has provided a list of acceptable tasks that are connected generally to safety and driver responsibility:
Officers will usually question a driver about the traffic infraction; they will run the driver’s license plate; they will request and review the vehicle’s registration and insurance; they will check for outstanding warrants; and lastly they will write a ticket. Officers also commonly question drivers about their travel plans. So long as they do so during the time that they undertake the traffic-related tasks for the infraction that justifies the stop (Arizona v. Johnson), officers may also ask questions about whether the driver has drugs or weapons in the car, or even walk a drug-sniffing dog around the car (Illinois v. Caballes). These unrelated tasks turn a reasonable stop into an unreasonable seizure if it “prolongs” the stop. Officers may not avoid this rule by “slow walking” the traffic-related aspects of the stop to get more time to investigate other potential crimes.
Once the traffic-related basis for the stop ends (or reasonably should have ended), the officer must justify any further “seizure” on a reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing those other crimes. See Hernandez v. Boles (6th Cir. 2020). Additionally, “a police officer may as a matter of course order the driver of a lawfully stopped car to exit his vehicle.” Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 410, 117 S.Ct. 882, 137 L.Ed.2d 41 (1997) (citing Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331 (1977) (per curiam)). That rule, the justification for which is officer safety, extends to passengers, as well. Wilson, 519 U.S. at 414–15, 117 S.Ct. 882. (United States v. Vaughan, 700 F.3d 705 (4th Cir. 2012)).
There’s a jury trial in Euclid, Ohio this week where Euclid police officer, Michael Amiott is being prosecuted for a use of force incident following the 2017 traffic stop of Richard Hubbard. Amiott is charged with two counts of assault and one count of interfering with civil rights. Cell phone video showed the officer repeatedly punching Richard Hubbard after he was pulled over for an unspecified moving violation.
Hubbard was accused of resisting arrest after allegedly refusing Amiott’s orders, and the ensuing struggle resulted in Hubbard being hit multiple times while on the ground. The criminal charges against Hubbard were later dropped, and while he suffered no permanent injuries, the city later agreed to a $450,000 settlement with both him and the owner of the car he was driving.
Following a 45-day suspension, Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail fired Amiott from the police force, but an independent arbitrator reinstated him a year later. Nevertheless, Amiott was arrested and charged in Euclid Municipal Court in August of 2019 following further investigation, and his trial was subsequently delayed two years by COVID-19.
The entire trial has been live streamed on Youtube by WKYC and some of the testimony has been interesting. This is what we’re dealing with by the way, in the mission to obtain some accountability where citizens are violently victimized by the government.
Also, this isn’t his only excessive force incident: