AKRON, Ohio — The City of Akron and seven current and former members of its police department are now facing a civil rights lawsuit concerning the Feb. 7, 2021 arrest of 28-year-old Charles Hicks II.
The ten count lawsuit filed in federal court on Jan. 2 seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and claims Hicks was the victim excessive use-of-force when he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.
The attorney for Hicks, Eddie Sipplen, told News 5 the lawsuit was filed when Akron Police body camera video clearly showed officer John Turnure packing three handfuls of snow into the mouth and nose area of Hicks face while he was subdued and on the ground during his arrest. Sipplen said the Hicks was left choking and gasping for air and fearing for his life during the arrest.
Sipplen said Hicks pleaded no contest to a charge of resisting arrest to move his civil right case forward, after the domestic violence charge was dropped.
Sipplen said officer Turnure was allowed to resign during the Akron police investigation into incident, and believes the City of Akron then failed to continue to pursue charges against their former officer.
“I would first disagree that the investigation was independent," Sipplen said. “Turnure was allowed to resign, and when he resigned the investigation pretty much stopped. If it were you or I, we quit our jobs, that’s not going to stop the criminal investigation, we’re still going to be faced with some type of charges.” “It was a citizen who was treated less than human, he was treated like an animal, his rights were violated.”
News 5 contacted the City of Akron and Akron Police Headquarters for this story, but the city would only issue the following written statement:
"The city typically does not comment on pending litigation so we won’t be providing comment or doing interviews at this time."
Still, the incident had Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan apologizing for the action of officer Turnure last year. “In that role of serving our residents we disrespected a citizen and for that I apologize," Horrigan said.
Then acting Akron Police Chief Mike Caprez also acknowledged the use of snow during an arrest is not department protocol last years, but backed the police investigation into the incident and also said it was Hicks who escalated the physical nature of his arrest.
“He failed to comply, verbally and physically with the officers attempts to take him into custody," Caprez said. “The APD internal investigation process does work, what you’re seeing today is proof of that.”
Meanwhile, Sipplen told News 5 the City of Akron has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit in federal court, and he's hoping the case will lead Akron police to examine its protocol, as the city prepares to finish taking applications on January 24 for its newly approved citizen police oversight board.
"What we would like now is some policy changes, and it may happen along with the passage of issue 10, with the civilian oversight board," Sipplen said. “The officers, and especially the ones involved, need to go through some additional training on de-escalating situations.”
To read the entire lawsuit, click here.