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YOUNGSTOWN Witness tells of struggle



Published: Tue, July 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mitchell has been in a coma since Friday night and remains in critical condition.

By IAN HILL

and PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

YOUNGSTOWN -- A Shehy Street woman says Officer Michael Walker picked up Booker Mitchell, "like you pick up a cat or a dog," before arresting him Friday afternoon.

Sandra Daniels said Walker grabbed Mitchell, 72, of Shehy Street, by the collar and picked him up off the ground. Walker arrested Mitchell on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing official business and resisting arrest.

Police reports say that Mitchell argued with Walker at about 1:30 p.m. Friday about having a car towed after an accident in a parking lot on North Garland Avenue.

Mitchell was in critical condition today in Forum Health Northside Medical Center. He has been in a coma since Friday evening.

Saw confrontation: Daniels was in the parking lot and said she watched the confrontation between Walker and Mitchell. Mitchell's relatives say Walker, without provocation, beat Mitchell during the arrest. They also say that jailers should have sent Mitchell to the hospital but didn't.

Daniels lives near Mitchell on Shehy Street, and her children were in Mitchell's car when the accident occurred. She said Mitchell told Walker he wanted to drive the car from the parking lot.

However, Walker told Mitchell that the car had to be towed and used as evidence, Daniels said.

"He was talking very nasty," she said of Walker.

Mitchell then turned his back to Walker and said "just kiss my ...," Daniels said. That was when Mitchell picked up Walker and tried to arrest him, she said.

A struggle ensued, and both Mitchell and Walker bounced off a car hood and landed on the ground, Daniels said.

She did not know who started the struggle.

"It was so fast and scary to me," she said.

Walker said he used pepper spray before placing handcuffs on Mitchell.

Investigation sought: Mitchell's family asked the local chapter of the NAACP to conduct an investigation into the arrest and treatment of Mitchell. Willie Oliver, president of the NAACP's local chapter, may ask local law enforcement officials to take appropriate action.

That "appropriate action" would be determined by the results of the investigation, Oliver said. He added that the NAACP may ask Mitchell's family to contact the U.S. Justice Department about alleged civil rights violations committed by local law enforcement officials.

Both Mitchell and Walker are black.

Youngstown Police Chief Richard Lewis said he spoke with Oliver on Monday. "He wants the facts, too, just as we do," Lewis said.

He said that the department is still investigating the arrest.

However, Lewis said Walker "does not have a reputation for that kind of activity."

Frances North, a St. Louis Avenue woman who also was in the parking lot when the arrest occurred, added that she felt Walker was a "very quiet, nice cop." North's car was struck during the accident in the parking lot.

"You could see in his face he felt bad for me," North said of Walker. She said she did not see the confrontation.

Treatment at jail: Mitchell's family also asked the NAACP to look into how Mitchell was treated at the county jail. Sheriff's Maj. Michael Budd said he believes the jail's staff acted prudently in its treatment of Mitchell.

Budd said that Mitchell's eyes were treated with saline solution and eye wash when he arrived at the jail at 2:45 p.m. He added that jail officials also checked Mitchell's vital signs, including his blood pressure. They did not find any major problems, Budd said.

Still complained: However, Budd said Mitchell complained that his eyes were still irritated when he was released from the jail at 7:15 p.m. Friday. Dennise Pennington, Mitchell's stepdaughter, said that Mitchell couldn't walk Friday evening, and that he said his head hurt.

Mitchell told Deputy Matthew Reesch that he felt light-headed, Budd said. Mitchell's family members asked Reesch to call 911 for an ambulance.

Reesch called for his supervisor, Cpl. Ronald Denson, who brought along a nurse. They arrived within 20 to 30 seconds, Budd said.

The family, by this time, was calling 911 on a pay phone, the major said.

Mitchell complained of a headache and Denson and the nurse walked him to the restroom. Denson is black; the nurse and Reesch are white.

When the ambulance crew arrived, they walked Mitchell to the ambulance, Budd said, noting that Reesch, Denson and the nurse acted prudently.

In a coma: Pennington said she last spoke to Mitchell Friday evening, before he went into a coma.

"We're not even allowed to go into there and talk to him and touch him," Pennington said.

She said that Mitchell suffered a stroke Saturday morning. Doctors had to perform emergency surgery to stop the bleeding around Mitchell's brain, Pennington said.

The doctors have not linked the stroke to the confrontation with the police officer, she said.




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