CLEVELAND — A man shot by Ashtabula Police last year is suing the city and two officers.
Brendan Hester filed a civil rights lawsuit Monday in federal court with the Northern District of Ohio against the city of Ashtabula and police officers Daniel Gillespie and Spencer Gale, according to his attorney.
Hester, now 24, was shot by Gillespie when the officers arrived at Hester’s home at about 5:15 a.m. June 2, 2017. Hester lived in the home with his brother, his brother’s girlfriend and their 2-year-old child. The officers were responding to a 911 call from the woman, who reported an armed intruder, according to the police report.
Police said a man broke into a home in the 400 block of West 38th Street and was holding a woman at gunpoint. According to a statement, three officers responded to the address, where they found two men involved in a struggle in the home.
One of the men, later identified as Hester, was holding a gun. Police say they asked Hester to drop the weapon several times and when he did not Gillespie shot him.
Hester’s family and attorney say no orders were given to drop the gun and police came through the door shooting multiple times and hitting Hester in the back.
“After disarming and subduing the intruder, Brendan held the intruder at gunpoint while awaiting police arrival and assistance,” according to the lawsuit.
“Two white Ashtabula City police officers arrived at the home and burst into the doorway. Before giving Brendan an opportunity to tell them what was going on or drop his weapon, Defendant Daniel Gillespie opened fire upon him.”
Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell said there’s no evidence to back up the family’s claim.
Jill Del Greco, from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation looked into the shooting and presented their findings to a special prosecutor for review.
“In this case, prosecutors with our Special Prosecutions Section presented the facts found during the investigation to an Ashtabula County Grand Jury, which declined to issue an indictment,” she said.
After the shooting, Hester remained hospitalized for months and is disabled today as a result of the shooting, according to a statement from Cleveland attorney Jacqueline Green, who is representing him.
“As a result of this shooting, Brendan suffers paralysis and permanent disability, and continuing psychological trauma,” according to the lawsuit.
Ashtabula City Solicitor Michael Franklin said Monday the Attorney General’s Office investigated the matter thoroughly and found no basis for charges against the officer.
“The shooting of Brendan Hester was an act of self defense,” Franklin said.
“If Mr. Hester is competent to stand trial, it is my intention to file charges against him. The only reason I have not done so to date is because of concerns I had about his competence.”
According to the lawsuit, the family says Hester never pointed the weapon at police or threatened them, “did not present a threat to them or anyone else” and was “not engaged in unlawful behavior.”
“To cover up their misconduct, defendant officers falsely claimed that Brendan Hester posed a threat sufficient to justify the use of deadly force,” according to the lawsuit.
In a statement released shortly after the shooting last year, Franklin defended the officers saying criminal activity took place in the home.
He also said race was not a factor — something Hester’s family and attorneys contend.
During a press conference at her office last June, Green said Hester is a young African-American man who was shot by white officers in a city she said has a history of police violence.
The lawsuit also names the city and police department saying its policies and practices allowed for the shooting, claiming a failure to properly hire, train, supervise or discipline officers who “engage in unjustified use of excessive and unreasonable force.”
The suit also argues a “pattern” of excessive force and failure to discipline officers or “investigate the use of excessive and unreasonable force against civilians, particularly African-Americans.”
According to Ashtabula Police Department records, there have been five verified shootings involving city police officers in the past 10 years.
One involved a police officer being shot, and four involved police shooting a suspect. Two of the four occurred in 2017.
Of those shot, two were white, two Hispanic and one African-American.
The police department’s arrest and citation statistics indicate about 70 percent of those who get charged or arrested by police are white, 19 percent African-American and 7 percent are Hispanic, according to Franklin.
As for the racial makeup of the Ashtabula Police Department, Stell said there are three officers of Hispanic descent, and the remainder are white males.
Stell has said his officers do not participate in racial profiling and he does not believe in it.
The other officer-involved shooting in 2017, in which a white robbery suspect, Evan Cox of Ashtabula, was killed, was determined by BCI to be justified.
No charges were filed against the officers involved, Franklin said.