Rodney Lewis retired from the Youngstown Police Department this month after 37 years of service, but that retirement comes on the heels of an investigation into the allegation he beat a handcuffed prisoner in the city lockup.
The police department’s Lt. Brian Butler said Lewis was escorting Alexander Henderson, a prisoner in the Mahoning County jail who was appearing in Youngstown Municipal Court for a hearing, back to the city’s holding cells after Henderson became disruptive in court.
Butler said Lewis took Henderson to the elevator just outside the city courtrooms when Henderson turned and spit in the officer’s face.
Lewis, in a statement to the internal affairs department compiled by Butler, told what happened.
“He turned and spit at me, hitting me in the left face. At that time, I just started hitting the subject and pulled him out of the elevator when it got to the fifth floor,” Lewis said.
Police Chief Rod Foley said Lewis did more than just hit Henderson, however. Lewis pulled Henderson by his ankle shackles, causing the handcuffed man to fall face first to the floor. Lewis then dragged Henderson across the floor and into a holding cell by his feet.
Foley said he understands how Lewis could be upset after having been spit on, but his response to the situation went too far.
“We just don’t operate that way,” Foley said. “We cannot tolerate that type of excessive force. The community gives us the trust to behave ourselves out there.”
Henderson is facing a felony charge for spitting on Lewis. Foley does not know if Henderson has filed a civil complaint against the city or Lewis.
Foley said Lewis, who was planning to retire later this year, was given the option of facing disciplinary action or retiring early. The chief said Lewis could have been terminated or suspended had he chosen not to retire.
“In lieu of discipline, he was allowed to retire,” Foley added. “We found him at fault, and he is out of here. Now we just have to deal with the complaint.”
Lewis will not face any additional disciplinary action or criminal charges in relation to the incident, Foley said, who conferred with the city prosecutor’s office and law department.