Records sought in excessive force lawsuit
The arrests were made March 1 after a construction site break-in.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The U.S. Department of Justice has requested all records from the March 1 arrest of four individuals who allege that city police officers used excessive force.
Greg Hicks, city law director, said officials with the U.S. Justice Department faxed him a letter late last week asking for the information on the arrests of Brett Hemberger, Jason Mills, Meghan A. Collins and Mark Mills.
"They want everything," Hicks said. "They want any video and audio tapes, internal records and arrest reports dealing with this matter."
Hicks said the information will be sent as soon as possible.
"We will certainly provide them with everything they want," Hicks said.
Last week, Atty. Raymond Masek, who represents Hemberger and Jason Mills, held a press conference asking that the justice department review the arrests. Masek says he believes the force used by police in making the arrests was excessive.
"I'm pleased to hear that the justice department has taken this matter under advisement so quickly," Masek said of the department's request. "I'm eagerly anticipating their report."
Question of excess
The arrests were made at a building on Eagle Creek Ro'ad after a break-in at an Enterprise Drive Northwest construction site and a subsequent chase. A $1 million facility for the Trumbull-Geauga Solid Waste District, now opened, was under construction at the time.
All four individuals filed complaints with the police internal affairs department alleging excessive force.
The internal affairs report says police officers did use force when they arrested the four, but says there is no conclusive evidence indicating that the force was excessive. The report, written by Lt. Thomas Skoczylas, states officer Emanuel Nites and other officers at the scene were justified in their actions and should be exonerated.
Masek, however, has said Hemberger's facial injuries, and the arm-length cast worn by Jason Mills, show the force was excessive. The lawyer has reviewed the internal affairs report and said he found some inaccuracies and incomplete information.
A $2 million lawsuit alleging excessive force is pending in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Because it involves constitutional issues, Masek said that case may be moved to U.S. District Court.
Hemberger faces charges of breaking and entering, resisting arrest and assault on a peace officer. Jason Mills, 21, of Hall Road, Andover, was charged with breaking and entering, resisting arrest and falsification. Collins, 18, of Evans Street, Niles, and Mark Mills, 23, of Cherry Street, Newton Falls, both face charges of obstructing justice.
The U.S. Department of Justice began investigating the city police department in December. Officials from the department have requested extensive documents and have been to the area twice. They are expected back in July, said Tom Conley, president and CEO of the Warren-Trumbull Urban League.