FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A video of a police officer throwing a man to the ground after a downtown crash is going Fort Wayne-viral on social media.
Commenters on social media are questioning whether the slam is a case of police brutality, saying that it appeared unprovoked. The video was initially posted Monday night.
Court documents offered more details about the incident, including the officer’s account of what happened.
Court documents said the suspect reportedly disregarded a stop sign, hit a vehicle and also ran a stop light causing a “traffic accident with injuries.”
When the officer first came into contact with the suspect, identified as 23-year-old Omar Ortiz, the officer said he “could smell the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his person,” according to court documents.
The officer, identified as Michael Meraz, then provided his account in court documents of what happened while attempting to take Ortiz into custody:
“I instructed [Ortiz] to place his hands behind his back and I then went to place him into custody. [Ortiz] began to tense up his arms and push back towards me in an attempt to free himself from my grasp. I gave [Ortiz] several verbal commands to stop resisting, but I could still feel the suspect aggressively tensing up his arms attempting to push them outwards from his body to free himself from my grasp as I attempted to gain control of my handcuffs. I continued to give [Ortiz] verbal commands to stop and had to push my left leg into his lower body to attempt to gain leverage on [Ortiz] as he continued to tense up his arms and push back towards me with his legs and lower half of his body and turn towards me. Being the only officer on scene in the middle of a busy intersection, fearing that [Ortiz] was attempting to free himself from my grasp to flee or assault me, I performed a hip toss in an attempt to gain control of [Ortiz]. Due to the ground being wet from snow and motor oil, [Ortiz] fell to the ground where he then tucked his arms underneath of his body continuing to attempt to evade being placed into custody. I had to forcibly remove the suspect’s arms from under his body where I was then able to place [Ortiz] into custody.“
The Fort Wayne Police Department (FWPD) released a statement Tuesday that said “despite what is depicted from an off-angle perspective, the officer’s actions align with our policies, procedures and training doctrine.”
The FWPD also said officers are trained to de-escalate situations when possible and “use force necessary and reasonable to effect an arrest.”
Authorities offered Ortiz medical attention at the scene that he refused, according to the FWPD.
Courts documents said Ortiz’s BAC was .292%.
Ortiz faces the following preliminary charges:
– OWI (operating while intoxicated) with a prior conviction, a Level 6 felony
– OWI endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor
– OWI with a BAC greater than or equal to .15%, a Class A misdemeanor
– leaving the scene of a crash, a Class A misdemeanor
– resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor
WANE 15 has reached out to the FWPD and requested the body cam footage from the scene, but the City denied the request for body cam footage and told WANE 15 why in an email:
Thank you for your request. As you are aware, this incident occurred last night and at this time, the exceptions to the release of the law enforcement recordings and the investigatory records apply. Therefore, your request for the body cam/dash cam and police report are denied pursuant to I.C. 5-14-3-5.2(b)(2)(C) and I.C. 5-14-3-4(b)(1).
Police Chief Steve Reed told WANE 15 the department would be willing to release the footage once the investigation is complete.
The incident happened in the aftermath of a crash at East Washington and South Anthony boulevards.
A witness at the scene told WANE 15 the man thrown to the ground had previously T-boned a car and then hit another parked car, and court documents also said the suspect had also been identified as the suspect in another crash just east of the scene.