PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio — Two separate lawsuits have been filed by Ven Johnson Law, PLC in the United States District Court against the Village of Put-in-Bay and three Put-in-Bay police officers for excessive force during two separate incidents this springs and summer.
The first lawsuit names officers Lt. Michael Russo, Officer Dwayne Webb and Cpl. Terry Rutledge Jr., claiming they used illegal and excessive force to wrongfully arrest two individuals while they were on vacation in Put-in-Bay.
On May 24, Russo was at the Put-in-Bay Resort Hotel responding to an unrelated incident when he was made aware of an incident involving an overturned golf cart involving one of the individuals in the lawsuit.
Russo allegedly approached one of the individuals, failed to announce himself as a police officer and slammed her to the ground while the other officers illegally detained the second person in the lawsuit, placing him in excessively tight handcuffs for no reason, the lawsuit claims.
After the incident, Put-in-Bay Chief Steve Riddle was placed on administrative leave while Russo and another officer not named in the lawsuit resigned.
Russo and Rutledge were also named in the second lawsuit, filed on behalf of three individuals in response to an incident that occurred in June.
On June 6, Russo and Rutledge pulled over a golf cart for running a stop sign and having too many passengers on board. While writing a citation, Russo accused a woman of hiding drugs and arrested her, prompting a man to approach and ask if she was being handcuffed.
Russo and Rutledge then attempted to restrain the man who had approached them and after a scuffle, Russo drew his firearm, pointed it at the individuals involved and said “Do you want to get shot?” the lawsuit said.
The incident was captured on video as a group of spectators gathered to film the interaction, who Russo also pointed his weapon at while Rutledge called for backup, according to the lawsuit.
As the group of spectators pleaded for Russo to lower his gun, the man who originally approached officers to ask why arrests were being made was tased three times and placed in handcuffs, the lawsuit said.
The individuals were taken to holding cells at the Put-in-Bay Police Department and two were released without being arraigned or informed of charges against them. The men involved were transported off the island to the county jail and wrongfully detained until June 8 when they were informed charges against them had been dropped, according to the lawsuit.
Prior to the incidents in Put-in-Bay, Russo was investigated for excessive force at least twice while serving as a police officer in Maple Heights, the lawsuit said.
“Lt. Russo has a history of using excessive force both in Put-in-Bay and while serving in the Maple Heights, Ohio, police department,” said Ven Johnson, founder of Ven Johnson Law. “The Village of Put-in-Bay was negligent for hiring him. The village also breached its duties in policies, regulations and lack of training exhibited by the recklessness of the three officers who deliberately, and without probable cause, arrested my clients after using excessive force to detain them. This behavior is unacceptable for anyone, let alone those who we trust to serve and protect.”