TOLEDO, Ohio - A unarmed motorcyclist allegedly shot in the back by an Ottawa Hills police officer and paralyzed and severely burned during a traffic stop, filed a civil suit yesterday in U.S. District Court against the officer and the village where the incident took place on May 23.
Officer Thomas White, the Village of Ottawa Hills and Officer John Doe are the defendants named in the complaint. The complaint, filed on behalf of Mike McCloskey, 24, of Maumee, by Geoffrey Fieger of Southfield, Mich., a nationally-known attorney, argues that McCloskey's civil rights were violated by Officer White, the village and Officer Doe.
The complaint asks for a jury trial and, as required in such cases, a minimum of $75,000 in punitive and other damages. That figure could go considerably higher, according to an attorney familiar with the case.
Ottawa Hills police and officials with the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, which is investigating the case, have declined to comment or release any documents related to the shooting. But in another incident report, released by Ottawa Hill police and related to the arrest of a second motorcyclist traveling with McCloskey, a different account than is detailed in the complaint of some of the events of that night is given.
According to the complaint, McCloskey was traveling from work on his motorcycle with a friend around 2:10 a.m. to a house he was staying at in Ottawa Hills. A co-employee was driving in a car behind McCloskey and his friend, but turned off on another road. As McCloskey and his friend were westbound on Indian Road, toward Central Avenue, a car without lights came up from behind. McCloskey assumed it was his friend in the car. Then, on Indian near Central the road was blocked by a police vehicle, at which point McCloskey stopped his bike.
According to the complaint, as he prepared to dismount from his bike, McCloskey, who was not armed, was shot in the back. "He immediately fell to the ground paralyzed from the waist down, as the said shot severed his spine," the complaint said.
When McCloskey fell to the ground, his motorcycle fell on top of him. His friend in the car, who is not identified, showed up a few minutes later and saw McCloskey on the ground with his bike still on top of him and running. According to the complaint, he heard McCloskey say, "I'm shot. I can't move. Get this bike off of me."
Neither Officer White or Officer Doe assisted McCloskey in any way, the complaint said.
McCloskey's friend, fearing an explosion, told the officers they needed to turn off the motorcycle and move the bike off McCloskey, as his legs were being burned by the exhaust pipes. According to the complaint, one of the officers said: "He's your friend, you get the bike off him."
Eventually, the motorcycle was turned off and removed from McCloskey's body. He sustained second or third-degree burns on his right leg and heel that might result in amputation of his right leg at some point, the complaint said.
Last week, Ottawa Hills police released a report that identified the second biker traveling with McCloskey as Aaron Snyder, 35, of Toledo. According to the report, Officer Curtis McCoy was called to the incident scene by Officer White prior to the shooting. Officer White told Officer McCoy he was in pursuit of two motorcyclists heading westbound on Indian. Officer McCoy said he spotted the bikes on Indian traveling at a high rate of speed as he was approaching Indian from Central.
He said he observed Snyder fail to negotiate a curve on Indian at Central, cross over an island and head eastbound on Central, at which point McCoy stopped Snyder without incident.
In the report, McCoy does not mention seeing White at that time or say what happened to McCloskey, who he did not name in the report. He does mention that another officer was called to the scene "in relation to an officer involved in a shooting."
Snyder was charged with failure to comply with an order given by a police officer, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol; driving with a suspended license, and running a stop sign.
Under the state's open records laws, The Newsmeister.com filed a request for the incident report and other documents involving McCloskey and Officer White. Ottawa Hills police Chief Robert Overmeyer said that since the report is a part of a state investigation, he had no obligation to release the information. Mark Losey, an attorney with the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, had a similar response in an interview today.
Although Chief Overmeyer did not identify Officer White as the shooter, he said the officer who fired the gun is on administrative leave.
Toledo Hospital, where friends say McCloskey is a patient, said today that no one with that name is a patient there.
Events of that night remain sketchy. McCloskey was at the Omni, a nightclub on West Bancroft Street, where is head of security, according to owner Neil Rhodes. McCloskey was not working at the time.
"He stopped by to hang out," Rhodes said.
Rhodes said he last saw McCloskey about 1:30 a.m., about 40 minutes before the incident. Asked to describe his condition at the time, Rhodes did not comment. He said he knew McCloskey left with Snyder, who does not work at the club.
Rhodes described McCloskey as a muscular guy with a great personality. "Ask anyone. He smiles a lot. He has good energy. Just a good person all the way around. I know he wasn't doing anything to put himself in a predicament to get shot," he said.
Asked about McCloskey's condition, Rhodes said: "He's not the best off right now, but he's doing a lot better. And he's alive."
Reported by George J. Tanber email@example.com