A police officer working off-duty at an Ohio public library broke a 17-year-old girl's jaw while removing her from the premises, a lawsuit filed by the girl's mother this week alleges.
The incident occured last November. According to the lawsuit, Officer Kevin Jones first complained that the girl's headphones were too loud, then told her to "shut the fuck up" after her phone rang, and finally declared that she had to leave after he saw her put her feet up on a chair.
The teenager, referred to in the complaint as J.G., and her 11-year-old brother, referred to as D.J., settled first in the children's section of the library, according to the lawsuit, but moved to the adult section after Jones' complaints about the girl's headphones and phone because Jones' "constant vigilance made them uncomfortable, especially given the hostile manner in which he had treated them since they arrived."
The mother's attorney, Subodh Chandra, has released surveillance video and body camera footage. The surveillance video shows the officer pushing the girl across the library, placing her in a full nelson near the entrance, and falling on top of her just short of it. The lawsuit alleges the fall broke the teen's jaw.
A statement from the Lakewood Police Department confirms the actions in the surveillance video: It says Jones "took hold of the female by the arm and back of the neck and they fell to the ground," notes the "full nelson type hold," and acknowledges that the two fell to the ground and that "the female sustained an injury to her mouth as a result of the fall."
The NBC affiliate in Cleveland WKYC obtained Jones' performance reports, which apparently say that Jones needed "little to no supervision" but needed "to continue to exercise patience with members of the public."
The police department suspended Jones without pay for 40 hours, prohibited him from working at the library, and ordered him to undergo additional training to resolve his issues.
"When employees act outside of their training and responsibilities they are held accountable," the statement read. "The Lakewood Police Department trains their employees to de-escalate encounters and to only use force when reasonable and required."
The lawsuit also alleges that Jones—and other officers who responded to the scene later—did not promptly request medical assistance for the girl, who was left bleeding outside. Instead, body camera footage showed Jones "re-hashing his attack on J.G. and laughing with the other officers about clocking out early rather than calling an ambulance to attend to the crying teenager."
The case shows the benefits of zero tolerance policies for police officers—that is, of identifying problem officers as early as possible and removing them before their excessive use of force turns deadly. Permitting an officer who has been cautioned to exercise patience to work security in a place like a library, full of children, suggests a culture where performance problems aren't taken seriously. In such an environment, problems get worse.
The lawsuit accuses the city of failing to train employees on how to deal with a "forseeable population"—namely children—and of failing to train them on how to "properly respond to serious medical needs." In nearby Cleveland, it took a settlement with the Department of Justrice to make medical care a part of the city's supposedly "exacting" use of force policy.
The lawsuit also says the officers violated the girl's Fourth Amendment rights, and it accuses Jones of criminal acts of assault, menacing, abduction, unlawful restraint, disorderly conduct, and interfering with civil rights.
The Lakewood Public Library and the Lakewood Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Watch the surveillance and body camera footage below: