ELYRIA — The man who police determined was punched by Elyria police Officer Jay Loesch while handcuffed to a hospital bed has asked for a criminal investigation of the Jan. 27 incident.
Jay Grunda, Elyria’s chief city prosecutor, said the complaint was filed Tuesday by Johnny Smith Jr.’s attorney and immediately sealed.
Grunda said the city will bring in an independent special prosecutor to handle the investigation. Exactly who that will be has yet to be determined, he said.
Loesch was given a 10-day suspension after an internal investigation concluded that he violated departmental policy by punching Smith, who also plans to sue the city. Five of those days were waived on the condition that Loesch not get in any more trouble for a year.
Loesch isn’t contesting the suspension.
Witnesses said that Loesch and Officer Richard Walker Jr. closed the door to Smith’s room at the EMH Regional Medical Center after Smith said that the officers at the hospital with him should have been killed at the same time as Elyria police Office James Kersetter.
Kerstetter was shot and killed by Ronald Palmer on March 15, 2010, while responding to a call that Palmer had exposed himself to a neighbor’s child on 18th Street. Loesch and Officer Donald Moss shot and killed Palmer when he refused to obey orders to surrender. A county grand jury cleared both officers of wrongdoing in Palmer’s death.
A nurse who watched the incident in Smith’s room at the hospital on a television monitor connected to a video camera told police that Loesch struck Smith once in the head.
Although Smith has said the punch nearly caused him to black out, Walker, who wasn’t punished, described the blow as something meant to get Smith’s attention, not hurt him.
Anthony Nici, the attorney who represents the police union, said he couldn’t comment on the investigation requested by Smith.
“I’m not commenting on the facts of the case, however, he suffered no injuries of any kind, which raises the question whether anything in fact did happen in that hospital room,” Nici said.
Smith, who has an extensive criminal record, doesn’t deny making the comment, and police acknowledge that he later apologized for it.
Smith, 43, had been arrested earlier in the evening after allegedly trying to run down Elyria police Officer James Rider with a semi truck. Rider, who was on foot, had been trying to get the truck to stop as part of an investigation into the theft of steaks and beer from the Apples grocery store.
Rider wasn’t hit by the truck, which officers finally surrounded at a Cleveland Street stoplight. They reported having to force Smith from the cab of the truck and then struggled with him to get him into handcuffs.
Smith, however, has accused Rider and several other officers who arrested him of using excessive force, although an internal investigation didn’t substantiate his allegations. Blood-alcohol tests found Smith’s level to be at 0.355 percent, well above the 0.08 percent limit at which Ohio law deems a driver impaired.
Smith has said he lost 35 percent of the vision in his right eye and suffers from memory loss and flashbacks to the beating he claims to have endured on Cleveland Street. Officials at the Lorain County Jail have confirmed that Smith is receiving medical treatment for vision problems.
Smith has been indicted on charges of obstructing official business, theft, DUI, resisting arrest and two counts of assault, to all of which he has pleaded not guilty.
The man police said stole the items from the grocery store, Jeff Marcum, has pleaded not guilty in Elyria Municipal Court to a misdemeanor charge of theft.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.