Lorain police are defending themselves against brutality claims raised by a man whose head was slammed into a cruiser with enough force to shatter the windshield.
The dash cam video, obtained exclusively by WKYC Channel 3 News, shows Pele Smith, handcuffed from behind, being walked to a cruiser on 34th Street in Lorain.
Suddenly, Smith’s face is slammed into the windshield, causing the glass to shatter.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s sad. It’s frightening that an individual while in handcuffs has something like that happen to them,” said Mark Petroff, an Elyria attorney representing Smith.
After the September 2014 incident, Smith was treated at Mercy Regional Medical Center for facial injuries.
He was later charged with tampering with evidence, obstructing official business and resisting arrest. In a plea deal with prosecutors, Smith pleaded guilty and received probation.
Smith, 32, last month filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and several officers. He is seeking unspecified damages. The case is in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. It is assigned to Judge Christopher Boyko.
Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera released a statement Wednesday calling Smith “a violent drug trafficker” and said the video “does not tell the complete story” and “could be misunderstood" by the public.
According to the Lorain County Clerk of Courts website, Smith has no felony convictions for violent crimes such as assault or robbery. He has prior convictions for drug offenses and possessing a firearm.
“During the arrest and Mr. Smith’s active resistance, he was placed on the hood of the police unit to gain control and conduct a search, as per policy,” Rivera said in his statement. “I would caution observers to not rush to judgment relative to the actions of the police on scene.
“Although it is not easy to watch, police officers explain all of their actions in their police reports.”
Lorain police have yet to provide records related to the incident. WKYC Channel 3 News has requested all records associated with Smith’s arrest and any subsequent internal investigations.
Smith’s lawsuit alleges excessive force by Officer Zachary Ferenec, who was walking Smith to the cruiser and put him into the windshield.
Smith also alleges three other Lorain officers at the scene did not intervene. Instead, one officer, Michael Gidich, is alleged to have gotten into the back of Ferenec’s cruiser and “began to taunt and insult the bleeding [Smith]” while being transported in the cruiser for treatment.