Colerain officer 'acted appropriately' in confrontation with woman taping arrests, probe finds

Breasina Thomas (Provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)
Breasina Thomas (Provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)

COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - A Colerain Township police officer's use of force was "completely justified" in an f-bomb laced confrontation with a woman taping arrests outside a school, an internal investigation found.

"After reviewing the investigation it is determined, that Officer Huntington acted appropriately," the report states.

"The arrested woman was told by three officers, five times,  to back away from the scene and was even escorted to a position that allowed her to continue her videotaping while not being in the arrest scene. She refused to comply with those officers' lawful orders.

"Officer Huntington saw her approaching an officer who was on the ground with his back to the approaching female. He told her three times to back away from the scene, seeing she had no intention of complying, Officer Huntington legally forced her to move."

Colerain Township police launched an investigation into the May 8 incident outside alternative school Northwest Passage off Springdale Road. Officers responded to a call for an "officer in need of assistance" at the school to break up a fight.

Hamilton County sheriff's officials have said the incident began with a student threatening to spit in a staff member's face. They said the student raised his fist at  a deputy serving as a school resource officer, prompting a scuffle.

Several people were arrested, including the 16-year-old accused of being disruptive in class and failing to comply with the deputy and police. The teen was eventually had to be sprayed with a chemical irritant and shocked with a Taser stun gun to be taken into custody, sheriff's officials have said.

The woman in the scuffle with Officer Huntington also was arrested. Breasina Thomas, 19, was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing official business.

Police said they they took her into custody after she was "resisting arrest of herself as officers attempted to calm down a crowd after an altercation," according to her criminal complaint.

She "was not following orders to disburse when officers were trying to calm down a crowd after an altercation," the court record states.

The investigators looked into incident by interviewing and taking written statements from all involved officers, reviewing cell phone videos posted online, talking with independent witnesses who saw the entire event, reviewing existing policy and law, trying to interview two people who who did not response and investigators sent a certified letter and conducting on-scene interviews with school district staff, according to their report.

Then, the case and videos were reviewed by two attorneys, according to the report.

"At no time was the female punched or struck as she claims on the video," the report states.

"All of the people who claimed online to have video showing the officer punching her in the face have failed to provide any video to us, despite the fact that we asked for witnesses and videos on (local media including FOX19 NOW) in a written statement.

Arresting and dealing with non-compliant people "is very often ugly," the report notes.  "The image and language can be upsetting.

"Many have posted online how they feel, in their very limited or non-existent experience and knowledge, how we should have responded," the report continues. "However, this is the reality police officers deal with every day.

"If cursing at a suspect lessens the amount of force (or completely eliminates it) that is a success. Confrontations must be ended as quickly as possible because there is always a loaded firearm at every incident officers go to, their service weapon. Officers are trained to end the fight quickly to avoid further violence."

The report points to an interview on FOX19 NOW with our legal analyst, Mike Allen.  We asked him to view the videos and give us his opinion on the actions of Officer Huntington.

The criminal defense attorney is the former Hamilton County prosecutor in addition to a former University of) Cincinnati police officer and Hamilton County Municipal Court judge, the report notes.

"'Taking into consideration that that police officer has to make a split-second decision, in my opinion, the use of force is a valid one,'" the report quotes Allen saying in the interview on FOX19 NOW.

"''Here the officer is saying 'Back up, back up' and she says 'I'm taking video,' (the officer) says 'You can do that but you need to back up' and this (incident) ensued. In my opinion, completely appropriate. I mean, he gave the commend, I believe, twice.'"

While Allen's opinion is not considered evidence, the report states, "this point of view provides valuable insight."

The report concludes: "Through review of the interviews and available video, it is clear the situation was instigated by Ms. Thomas who continued to obstruct the arrest of several violent suspects. After repeated warnings, Officer Brian Huntington used the proper tools at his disposal to gain compliance. There is no violation of any policy or procedure of the Colerain Police Department."

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