EUCLID, Ohio — A white police officer seen on video punching a black man more than a dozen times in a traffic stop has received multiple complaints about his behavior during his three years in the police department.
According to documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request, Officer Michael Amiott received four letters of reprimand and one formal citizen complaint as a Euclid officer but was never disciplined beyond written citations. He was cited for pistol-whipping a driver with a handgun, mishandling evidence, losing his temper in front of his commanding officer and being involved in two crashes in police vehicles.
Some Euclid residents stepped forward last week to express concern about Amiott’s previous conduct. Euclid police hired Amiott in 2014 after he resigned from his previous position in Mentor, east of Cleveland.
Euclid police spokesman Lt. Mitch Houser and Euclid police union president Dave Trend did not return calls and messages seeking comment. The Euclid mayor’s office declined to comment, citing a pending investigation. No one answered at two phone numbers listed for Amiott.
Amiott has been suspended without pay for 15 days after the violent arrest of Richard Hubbard III that was captured on video Aug. 12. Police dashcam video shows Amiott ordering Hubbard to “face away” after Hubbard steps out of his car and then within seconds wrestling Hubbard to the ground.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Michael O’Malley said his office has conferred with the U.S. attorney’s office and is investigating Amiott.
Amiott first became a full-time police officer in July 2013 in Mentor. He’s a nephew of Richard Amiott, a former Mentor police chief who died in May. Michael Amiott was allowed to resign rather than be fired in April 2014 for lying to other officers about why he stopped a man for a suspended license.
Euclid police hired Amiott five months later. Houser said the Euclid police chief at the time, now retired, was aware of Amiott’s forced resignation when he hired him.
The cellphone video of Hubbard’s arrest was viewed more than 7 million times on Facebook. It sparked outrage across the country and has inflamed racial tensions in Euclid. Angry residents confronted Euclid’s mayor and police chief at a City Council meeting last week.
Here are some recent incidents that have provoked controversy about Amiott’s conduct, detailed in police reports and footage obtained by the AP:
YOUTH SOCCER COACH PEPPER SPRAY
Shawn George, 25, a Euclid soccer coach, was arrested by Amiott on July 31 after asking questions while Amiott and two other officers were patting down and handcuffing juveniles.
The officers were responding to a call reporting a juvenile with a gun at a playground. They patted down two black juveniles and handcuffed one white juvenile who had a backpack containing a BB gun.
George confronted officers while they were detaining the juveniles and called a lawyer, the report said. George was ordered to leave multiple times but refused, prompting Amiott to try to handcuff George. When George tried to livestream the arrest with his cellphone, Amiott tossed George to the ground and pepper sprayed him several times.
“I thought I was going to die that day,” George told WKYC. “I was treated like I was a career criminal.”
George, who’s black, was bruised during his arrest and charged with obstruction and resisting arrest. He declined to comment when approached by the AP. He’s due in court Sept. 7 for a pretrial hearing. No formal complaints or citations were filed against Amiott over the incident.
Amiott confronted a black 16-year-old girl and two other juveniles entering a public library around 3:30 p.m. on April 13, telling them they were barred from entering without an adult until 4:30 p.m. According to Amiott’s police report, they started horsing around by the library until he came out to order them to leave. The 16-year-old yelled at him, using a curse word, leading Amiott to take her to an office to write her up for disorderly conduct.
The girl pulled away and told Amiott to get off her, the report said. Amiott handcuffed the girl and took her inside to search for identification and weapons. When Amiott tried to open her bag, the girl refused.
“You’re not touching my bag,” the girl told Amiott, as shown on a bodycam video. Amiott then grabbed her and pulled her to the ground. The video shows Amiott pressing his knee into the girl’s back as she lies face down on the floor, crying. The girl was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Her mother criticized Amiott in comments to WKYC but declined to comment when contacted by the AP. Juvenile court records in Ohio are sealed from public view. No formal complaints or citations were filed against Amiott over the incident.
On April 1, Amiott pulled over a man driving to a paint store, swore at him, slammed a car door on his leg, and threatened to pepper spray and jail him, according to a citizen complaint filed in April.
Christopher Spencer’s complaint was ruled “not sustained” by Euclid police. Chief Scott Meyer said there was no evidence to prove or disprove Spencer’s claim and advised him to keep a “cool head” during police encounters.
Amiott charged Spencer with having an obstructed windshield. The charges were later dropped. A man at an address listed for Spencer declined to comment.