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VIDEO: Man's face cracks Lorain Police windshield

Two-year-old encounter now subject of federal suit
Posted at 6:46 PM, Sep 30, 2016

Dramatic new video from Lorain Police shows a man’s face hitting a police cruiser windshield so hard the glass shattered.

The two-year-old encounter is now the subject of a federal lawsuit against the department, but officers said the video only tells part of the story.

On September 4, 2014 then 30-year-old Pele Smith was arrested at 2200 East 34th Street for jaywalking, under suspicion he was trafficking drugs. He’s been convicted of cocaine trafficking before.

According to an incident report, Smith became upset after he was stopped by narcotics officers Timothy Thompson and Michael Gidich. While trying to handcuff Smith, the group became involved in a fight. The officers were eventually able to handcuff Smith behind his back and have him sit on the curb.

Officers requested back up to have him transported. Officer Zachary Ferenec responded. Video from Ferenec’s dash camera shows him escorting Smith toward the cruiser when Smith’s body is slammed against the hood of the car, his face hitting the windshield. Smith’s chin made impact. He was transported to the hospital, but did not need stitches.

“Disturbing. Shocking. I think it’s kind of difficult to watch,” Smith’s attorney Mark Petroff said. “I don’t know what kind of force it takes to break a windshield, but I would imagine it’s pretty substantial.”

But Lorain Police Captain Roger Watkins said Friday the force was justified and the video doesn’t show the entirety of the event. 

“Smith contributed to this incident by resisting,” Captain Watkins said. "This was dramatic. No one here is not going to agree that this looked dramatic, but this was not intentional. This was accidental."

Petroff said he believed Ferenec slammed Smith on purpose. Smith is suing the department for monetary damages. The case has been assigned to Judge Christopher Boyko.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice completed a four-year investigation into allegations of excessive force within the department. The report found officers lacked proper training and accountability, but the report noted those problems had been corrected.