Lorain police have organized neighborhood meetings to ease concerns sparked by the release of a 2014 video depicting a resident whose head was slammed into a police cruiser windshield, causing the glass to shatter.
The two sessions were held in Lorain on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
The forums were organized shortly after Channel 3 News uncovered the police dash cam video that was never shared with the public since the incident happened two years ago. Lorain resident Pele Smith suffered injuries to his face during the incident.
Although police supervisors in 2014 found Officer Zach Ferenec acted appropriately, Chief Cel Rivera has now asked county Prosecutor Dennis Will to review the video for possible criminal charges.
Officers had stopped Smith for jaywalking and believed he possessed drugs. No drugs were found. They claim Smith was resisting arrest when Ferenec forced him into the windshield. Smith;s attorney, Mark Petroff said the video shows Smith was cooperating as he was being walked to the cruiser by Ferenec and that the officer acted recklessly.
Tuesday’s public forum at Iglesias De Dior Pentecostal Ebenezer church banned TV news cameras.
“Everyone in there should be mad that you won't let them in,” one citizens shouted to Councilman Angel Arroyo, who hosted the session and ordered the camera ban. “This makes Lorain look like [expletive]…transparency is what we need.”
Peggy Orr, a Lorain resident who attended the forum viewed the video for the first time on Wednesday. She said the conduct of police gives her pause.
"If police were to get behind me and turn on a light or something like that, I'm going to keep driving, do the speed limit, driving until I get home or to a well lit area where people are," she said.
It is unclear why police are only now asking prosecutors to review the incident. Rivera has refused to discuss the incident, citing Smith’s pending lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
Neither Will nor Mayor Chase Ritenauer has not responded to repeated messages for comment.
“We don’t know the whole story,” said resident Dianna Nicely.
Added her husband: “I don’t want to pass judgment, It’s not my place to.”