Wagswoofs – Video footage from Sunday night in Westerville, Ohio, captured a shocking incident involving Westerville police officers who resorted to beating and tasing a suspect accused of stealing Pokemon cards.
At 10:28 p.m., a theft in progress was reported by an employee at the Meijer located at 100 Polaris Parkway, as stated in a redacted Westerville Division of Police report. Ernest Fields, a 35-year-old suspect, was allegedly caught bagging up Pokemon cards worth $679.59. He was also seen attempting to remove security tags from the products and ignoring a manager’s intervention to prevent him from leaving the store.
According to the report, the manager of Meijer informed the Westerville police that Fields entered the front passenger seat of a red Chevrolet Impala in the parking lot. Shortly after, an officer, whose name was redacted from the report, alerted the other responding police that he had located the suspect.
In their reports, Officers Williams and Mueller identified that upon their arrival at the Meijer, Fields emerged from the car and immediately started running away from the unnamed officer. Both officers also observed from the store’s surveillance footage that Fields engaged in a physical altercation with the officer, pushing him and attempting to overpower him.
As Mueller arrived at the scene, he observed the officer on top of Fields, who was actively resisting being handcuffed. However, a video of the incident, captured by an off-duty employee of Nexstar Media Group, Inc., revealed that the officer repeatedly punched Fields in the head while Fields attempted to shield himself with his hands.
CAUTION: Please be aware that the video you are about to watch may contain disturbing content. It is recommended that viewers exercise discretion.
Fields kept shouting “I’m sorry” multiple times in the video. Additional officers arrived and helped restrain him. According to Mueller’s report, he repeatedly instructed the suspect to place his hands behind his back, turn onto his stomach, and stop resisting. However, Fields continued to actively resist by pulling his arms under his body and attempting to roll over.
The unredacted portion of the Westerville police report does not mention the unnamed officer repeatedly punching Fields in the head or another officer tasering the suspect, despite both incidents being captured on video. Instead, Mueller’s report states that he managed to gain control of the suspect’s right arm and held it behind his back, while Officer Sheumaker controlled the suspect’s left arm and placed it behind his back. Williams also mentioned that Fields sustained injuries during his arrest and was taken to St. Ann’s Hospital for treatment.
During the arrest, the officers recovered the Pokemon cards and suspected drugs from the Impala. Williams and Mueller reported scrapes or cuts on their hands, while the unnamed officer sustained a cut on his finger and swelling on his wrist. Fields’ mugshot displayed a black eye, along with bruises and cuts on his face and head.
Brian Steel, the Acting President of the Fraternal Order of Police, expressed his perspective on the video, highlighting that it only captures a small portion of the incident. He emphasized the importance of gathering all the relevant facts before drawing any conclusions.
The speaker commended the Westerville police department for its exceptional leadership and professionalism, stating that it is one of the best departments in the Fraternal Order of Police. He expressed confidence in their ability to conduct a comprehensive review of the situation. If any wrongdoing or policy violation is found, the officer responsible will be held accountable. From his training experience and initial observation, the speaker believes that the arrest appears to be well-executed.
It is disconcerting how the video and the police report appear to diverge, according to the organizing director of Ohio Families Unite for Political Action and Change (OFUPAC).
“It is crucial for departments to have a transparent and publicly accessible use of force policy, and they must hold themselves accountable to that standard in a transparent manner,” emphasized Cori Elaine Schleiffer, the Organizing Director of OFUPAC. “Our organization is dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability in all aspects.”
According to court records from Delaware County Common Pleas Court, Fields was charged with felony assault following his arrest. As of Monday afternoon, he was not facing any theft charges. Another case in Franklin County Common Pleas Court revealed that Fields had pleaded guilty to arson in May 2021 but failed to appear for his sentencing. The court issued a warrant for his arrest in November, as indicated in the last activity recorded in the case.
According to Schleiffer, a notable aspect of the police’s narrative is the potential involvement of substance use in the case. As someone familiar with behavioral health, Schleiffer emphasizes that the utmost priority should always be providing care. Violence should never be seen as a solution for individuals experiencing withdrawal or struggling with addiction.
According to Steel, officers should always be prepared to use the appropriate amount of force, as they can never predict the specific circumstances they may encounter.
“Why would you take an officer to the ground again?” he questioned. “There is no reason for it. Instead of trying to escape, you are now actively assaulting them, which is when things can escalate and result in the use of force, such as tasers.”
We contacted the Westerville police for a comment. However, they were informed that the police chief was not available on Monday and had not yet reviewed the report.