BUTLER COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - A Butler County corporal will retire with full benefits Friday amid an investigation after he was captured on a police body camera shoving a handcuffed suspect and then allegedly striking him in the backseat of a cruiser.
Corporal Michael Brockman has been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 2 and planned to retire before a Fairfield police sergeant complained about his use of force during an OVI checkpoint, Sheriff Richard Jones said Thursday.
So, rather than drag the veteran law enforcement officer through six months of an investigation, the sheriff said Brockman chose to retire early.
Fairfield Police Sgt. Amy Mays filed the use of force complaint on Brockman last month, alleging he struck hit Nicholas Kurzner under arrest for OVI.
"I've seen the video and the statements," Jones said Thursday in an exclusive interview when we contacted him about the incident and asked for the video.
"So putting them all together, it looks to me, that the officer reached across and stuck his hand in his face and I didn't see the punch, it looked like a hand to the face. It didn't look like a punch to me, but you make your own decision."
The officers said they smelled a strong odor of alcohol and asked Kurzner to perform a variety of field sobriety tests.
They said he failed those tests and then got belligerent.
Sgt. Mays wrote in her report: "Kurzner continually talked over Deputy Brockman, interrupted him, was argumentative."
"You're under arrest for driving under the influence," Brockman calmly told the man.
Kurzner asked: "What did I fail, though?"
"You failed everything," Brockman responded.
"But I didn't fail a test," Kurzner insisted.
"Yes, you did," Brockman told him. "Get in and shut up."
When we watched the video with the sheriff Thursday, he noted that Kurzner was clearly arguing: "He didn't want to get in the car."
Then, Brockman is seen on Mays' bodycam pushing Kurzner into the back seat.
"I said 'get in!'" Brockman said.
"Don't f*** push me, dude," Kurzner yelled. "Push me again."
"Don't start cussing at me," Brockman told Kurzner, who kept shouting.
Brockman slammed the door on him.
Mays, a report states, "noticed Brockman clenched his right fist and grinded his teeth, just before slamming the door shut."
Moments later, Brockman went back to his cruiser to read Kurzner information about a breath test.
He opened the door and Kurzner started spewing expletives.
"When he was talking, spit was coming out of his mouth," Jones said Thursday.
He was also yelling and continuing to use profane language, at one point yelling: "She f*** knows it," referring to Mays witnessing him taking the sobriety tests.
"I've heard enough of your mouth," Brockman told him. "Knock it off. I'm going to read this and you're gonna listen."
"You abused me!" Kurzner shouted. "I already passed everyone one of your f*** f*** tests."
"Deputy Brockman quickly reacted by striking him in the face one time, slammed the door and walked away," Mays wrote in her use of force complaint.
Brockman noticed her body cam and mentioned that she likely just recorded what happened, her report states, "and I acknowledged that I had. He said he thought Kurzner was going to 'spit' on him."
After watching the video with us on Thursday, Jones said: "I would rather have somebody hit me in the face, than spit in my face. Spitting is a terrible thing, and if you think somebody's going to spit on you with disease, Hepatitis, it can actually be a deadly thing."
In addition to OVI, Kurzner was charged with resisting arrest for refusing to get into his cruiser, and obstructing official business for interrupting the reading of the breath test form.
After Mays filed her complaint on Dec. 2, Brockman was put on paid leave by sheriff's officials and notified in writing of an internal investigation.
Sheriff's officials had a medic check Kurzner's condition at the Butler County Jail that morning.
"There were no visible marks on NIcholas Kurzner," an interoffice memo states.
Sheriff's officials also took a written statement from Kurzner about the incident.
"As I was detained, I asked (the) arresting officer what i was being arrested for. He would not tell me what reasoning was," Kurzner wrote.
"I got a little loud, demanding to know what I was detained for then officer proceeds to shove me full body while I'm handcuffed and sitting in the back of a cop car. He then shoved me once more with hands to face and slammed the door."
A sheriff's office "Subject Management Report": concluded that the use of force Brockman used on Kurzner was "physical strikes" to gain compliance and found it was "effective."
"Subject Nicholas Kurzner was placed under arrest at an OVI checkpoint for operating his vehicle while under the influence," the report states. "He was argumentative and refused verbal commands. While placed in the cruiser, subject was leaning out and being argumentative and spit was coming out of his mouth.
"Cpl. Brockman struck subject in the face to force him back into the cruiser," the report reads. "No further incident."
Brockman was instructed in writing to appear at the sheriff's office on Dec. 5 for an internal investigation interview.
He was told he could be accompanied by a union representative or attorney.
Brockman, who could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday, did not supply a statement to sheriff's investigators about the incident, according to the paperwork we received from the sheriff's office when we asked for everything on this case.
"He decided he would rather retire than go through this and he submitted his retirement papers and it's effective the 5th," Jones said Thursday.
"And if he'd had stayed, I don't know that it would have rated him being fired. I believe probably a suspension. He's a good officer. He has been with the Sheriff's Office, 25 to 30 years, been here a long time.
"He's done a good enough job here to get promoted, from Deputy Sheriff to Corporal. And I've viewed the video and I believe that him retiring was the right thing to do. And we got a closure to this," said Jones.
While Jones praised Brockman's performance with the sheriff's office, records show Brockman has a pattern of getting into trouble.
He was twice reprimanded in writing after being pulled over by other law enforcement agencies on suspicion of OVI, sheriff's records obtained by FOX19 NOW show.
He was arrested on a DUI charge in Aug. 15, 1981 in Hamilton and pulled over by a Glendale police officer on suspicion of the same alleged offense on June 19, 1993, records state.
While Hamilton police arrested Brockman, a Glendale police officer let him off with just a speeding ticket, according to an Oct. 22, 1993 sheriff's interoffice memo.
Brockman was clocked speeding 71 mph in a Corvette on Interstate 75 and then "got belligerent" with the officer, refusing to get back in his car, the memo states.
"After Brockman settled down he was issued a citation for speeding," the memo reads. "His weapon was confiscated by Officer Sears and he was not arrested for DUI. Brockman's girlfriend, who was with him, was allowed to drive his car from the scene."
Brockman was reprimanded for the traffic stop and for drawing complaints over refusing to return equipment to St. Clair Township trustees, according to a JUne 25, 1993 memo to him written by then-Sheriff Harold Don Gabbard.
"Please be advised that since I have been in office, I have received various complaints involving your conduct," Gabbard wrote.
Gabbard suspended Brockman of his then-commission as a special deputy for 31 days. He also was stripped of his badge and weapons.
"After reviewing all information received, it is my opinion that your conduct was unbecoming of an officer and did not speak well of this administration and your fellow officers," Gabbard wrote.
"I cannot allow this kind of attitude and conduct to exist."
A dash cam video from Brockman's car from a December 2014 traffic stop also is now the center of a federal civil rights lawsuit against Jones, Deputy Jason Hatfield and Brockman.
The suit alleges, in part, that deputies edited the original dash cam video before a criminal trial and his it from the suspect's defense team for more than a year.