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Mentally Ill Man Faced More Than Two Decades in Prison Until Body Cam Footage Showed Police Beating Him Up

An Ohio man is suing the Garfield Heights Police Department after body cam footage showed officers beat him up during an arrest. Kenta Settles, 28, faced 24 years in prison for charges including felonious assault of a peace officer, according to Cleveland.com. Settles was jailed for nearly 5 months.

A spokesman for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley told the news organization that the prosecutor saw the footage on Wednesday, June 10, and called Settles’s defense lawyer Thomas Shaughnessy the next day to say that charges would be dropped. The spox said that the prosecutor’s office would present the matter to a grand jury later.

Shaughnessy said he’s happy with the charges being dropped, but did note that the case was was dismissed without prejudice, so prosecutors can refile.

In the meantime, Settles’s civil attorney Jeffrey Tor is spearheading the lawsuit against police, and the city for the January 23 arrest. As seen on body cam video, officer Michael Malak stopped Settles on the sidewalk, but didn’t say why.

“Stop! Police,” he said. “You in green pants.” Malak grabbed Settles. “Why didn’t you stop when I asked you to?”

Footage showed the arrest escalating, with multiple officers beating Settles, and telling him to stop resisting.

“I’m not,” said Settles.

Malak’s nose was injured during the incident (police later said it was broken). He was visibly furious.

“Are you crying?” he told Settles after the struggle died down. “Aw, poor baby. You shouldn’t fucking hit cops, you asshole.”

Settles was later allowed to stand up.

“I hope you all had fun tonight,” he said.

“No, we did not have fun,” said another officer.

“This isn’t our idea of fun,” said an officer identified as Sgt. William Gall.

“Confused the fuck out of me,” said Settles. “I was like, ‘What the fuck?'” He later said, “Do me like that, out of nowhere. Was that fair?”

“All you had to do was stop and talk to us, and none of this would have happened,” said an officer.

“You didn’t ask me to talk,” Settles said.

“I wasn’t even [initially] here,” Gall said.

Tor said that his client–who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, and ADHD–was out drying to refill a prescription. The CVS was closed, but the drive-thru was open, and Settles decided to approach it on foot, according to the account. The plaintiff acknowledged that he looked out of place, and he approached the driver ahead to let him know he was just picking up a prescription, the attorney said.

But the driver claimed to have a gun, and honked his horn, frightening off Settles, who left, according to this account.

Tor said he plans on adding claims of malicious prosecution.

Garfield Heights Police Chief Robert Byrne said that the original call was for a suspect attempting to take another man out of a vehicle at a CVS; there was a reported armed robbery nearby about 90 minutes before.

“I bring up this armed robbery not to suggest this individual was involved in the crime, but rather, to give you the mindset that the police officers were in at the time,” Byrne said in a video released Monday evening. “Again, two crimes occurring in such a short span of time, with a potential for violence, is somewhat uncommon.”

He said his officers acted appropriately within the context they were acting: trying to pat down a suspect who physically tensed up during the search amid two allegations of possibly violent crimes. Officers were in no position to know Settles was mentally ill, he argued.

“The reasonableness of any use of force will be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene at the time of the incident,” Byrne said. “Our officers are not afforded 20/20 hindsight when they respond to calls. They cannot review body camera video or any other video for that matter. Their mindset is that this individual just tried to remove someone from a car, and just and hour and a half before that, there was an armed robbery.”

[Screengrab via Garfield Heights Police Department]

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