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& acute;Residents rally over race relations



Published: Sat, August 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city and U.S. Justice Department will reveal details of closed-door meetings.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

and PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- City officials have said they are addressing race relations in an attempt to improve them.

That's not good enough for more than 50 residents who took their concerns to the streets Friday, gathering in front of the city justice center and later at a forum.

Demonstration organizers Glenn Matlock and James "Doc" Pugh, former president of the local NAACP, aren't happy with the way things are going so far. They want to talk to the city about what they and others point to as examples of police brutality and a need for better relations between law enforcement and citizens.

Lea Dotson, 22, of Ferndale S.W., said police officers used excessive force when they arrested her Aug. 11.

She has pleaded innocent to charges of obstructing justice and resisting arrest, and says an officer punched her after she was handcuffed.

"I'm a third-year political science major at Kent State and I have never had a problem with police, so I was shocked when this happened," Dotson said.

Not on file: Police Chief John Mandopoulos said Dotson has not filed an official complaint with the police department.

According to police reports, officers responded to a call about a disturbance at a home on Lynwood Drive around 4 a.m.

Dotson and others were arrested, and police say officer Manuel Nites was injured during arrests and treated at a local hospital.

"We had a bachelorette party and we were celebrating. That is what the police are calling a disturbance," Dotson said.

She told about 50 people attending Friday afternoon's forum that she did bite an officer during the scuffle, only after he allegedly grabbed her from behind, punched her in the face and split her lip.

Juan Douglas backed up Dotson's story and said he was arrested that night after he told police they beat up the person who was to drive him home.

Dotson said she doesn't feel Mayor Hank Angelo is helping the problem by holding meetings on race relations.

"These meetings are not open to everyone," Dotson says. "City officials are not asking for opinions of all the residents."

Angelo had a community breakfast June 25 to address race relations. Later that night, Lamont Murray told authorities that two white officers used excessive force when they pulled over the car he was riding in because the driver failed to use a turn signal.

He is free on bond after pleading innocent to charges that he assaulted a police officer, obstructed official business and resisted arrest.

A few days after Murray's arrest, the U.S. Justice Department contacted the city, saying it was sending a representative to meet with officials, NAACP members and citizens.

Information: Details of closed-door discussions have not been disclosed, but a statement from Angelo's office Friday said information about those discussions will be made public at 10 a.m. Wednesday at city hall.

The city held a second breakfast this week, inviting black community leaders, pastors and others to address race relations.

Dotson said she's incensed that more city council members, city officials and clergy didn't attend the forum.

She urged the group to remember who was there when elections come up again.

State Sen. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-32nd, and Warren Councilman Brendan Keating were the only two politicians to attend. Also there were Gary Fonce, a former city police officer and candidate for city council-at-large; and Niki Frenchko-Nagy, a Republican candidate for council-at-large.

A representative of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission was also there.

Demands: Pugh said the group will give police a list of demands they would like to see met involving Dotson's case. They include dismissing all charges against the five people arrested that night; investigating alleged brutality, wrongful arrest and racial profiling; postponing trial for the five people arrested until the investigation is complete; and suspending the first officers who arrived at the scene until the investigation is complete.

davis@vindy.com; sinkovich@vindy.com




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