Officer Accused Of Excessive Force Sues Suspect Who Attacked Him
Cincinnati, OH – A Cincinnati police officer is suing the suspect who brutally attacked him and pummeled him in the face while he was unconscious.
Although he survived the attack, Cincinnati Police Officer Doug Utecht suffered “extreme pain and suffering and will have permanent scarring and disfigurement” to his face, according to the lawsuit, WXIX reported.
“This officer was grievously injured in the line of duty and he’s got legitimate claims against the people who are responsible," said Officer Utecht’s lawyer, Zach Gottesman.
Named in the suit are 25-year-old Durrell Nichols and Nichols’ mother, Lakisha McMillan, as well as “John Does # 1-10,” WXIX reported.
Despite having made “reasonable efforts to determine” their identities, Officer Utecht does not know the names of the “John Does,” but alleged that they “may be liable in whole or in part” for his injuries, according to the lawsuit.
The officer has requested a jury trial and is seeking damages exceeding $25,000, attorneys’ fees, legal costs, and “such other relief” deemed appropriate by the court, WXIX reported.
The incident occurred at the Gamble-Nippert YMCA in June of 2019.
Officer Utecht and several other officers responded to the facility after employees called to report that a man – later identified as Nichols – was acting disorderly and refusing to leave.
"He was called to the scene there because this suspect was harassing young ladies on the basketball court," Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils told WLWT. "And the staff there wanted him [Nichols] removed.”
Officer Utecht attempted to de-escalate the situation by working to calm the 300-pound suspect, but those attempts were unsuccessful, according to the lawsuit.
“The officer was using all the patience in the world just to have this subject just leave,” Hils explained. “And then out of nowhere, he just attacks the officer and starts absolutely brutalizing him.”
Gottesman said that Officer Utecht “did everything he could to de-escalate the situation” in the moments before the brutal attack, which was captured by the YMCA’s security cameras.
“The YMCA video will be available at some point and it will show the brutality of the attack,” Gottesman told WXIX. “It is horrifying. The brutality of the attack is horrifying: A 300-pound man beating an unconscious police officer in the face.”
Officer Utecht suffered bruises to the side of his head, a severe cut to his forehead, and his eye was swelled shut due to the attack, WXIX reported.
As a result of his injuries, the officer incurred “economic damages including lost wages, past medical expenses and will incur future medical expenses in an amount that cannot yet be determined,” the lawsuit read.
Nichols was arrested on multiple charges, including aggravated robbery, obstructing official business, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault, and felonious assault.
Several months after the altercation, Nichols was found incompetent to stand trial.
He underwent treatment, and was determined to be competent to stand trial on Jan. 31.
According to the lawsuit, Nichols failed to take his anti-psychotic medications as prescribed, even though he was aware he could harm others if he didn’t comply with the prescribed regimen, WXIX reported.
As Nichols’ primary caretaker, McMillian was responsible for ensuring that her son was taking his medications, but she failed to monitor his mental health, the lawsuit alleged.
The suit also noted that McMillian “knowingly made a series of false and defamatory statements” about Officer Utecht with the intent of causing him reputational and professional harm.
After her son’s arrest, McMillian filed a complaint with Cincinnati’s Citizen Complaint Authority (CCA) against Officer Utech and two other officers who were at the scene, WXIX reported.
According to her complaint, Nichols was doing nothing wrong when the YMCA staff abruptly asked him to leave.
McMillian claimed that Nichols had no idea why he was told to leave, and that the officers didn’t try to explain the situation to him when they arrived.
According to McMillian, Officer Utecht made no attempt to de-escalate the situation and instead walked up behind Nichols and punched, WXIX reported.
The officer then allegedly began choking him, at which point Nichols was forced to fight back because he couldn’t breathe, the complaint said.
McMillian alleged that the officers used excessive force, failed to read him his Miranda rights, and that they pressed excessive criminal charges against him.
But bodycam footage doesn’t back up those claims.
“The complaint is obviously false and the officers’ body camera footage makes clear that what the complainant said occurred is complete fiction,” Gottesman told WXIX.
Despite the fact that Nichols has yet to stand trial for the brutal attack, the CCA is moving ahead with its investigation into the officers who arrested him.
“[Officer Utecht is] being interrogated by this civilian complaint authority. It makes no sense whatsoever," Hils told WLWT. "Now he’s being questioned before the bad guy even faces his day in court…This particular case is a personal insult to us as police officers."
Hils said that the complaint board should hold off on investigating the officers until after Nichols’ trial is concluded, WXIX reported.
“The process is wrong,” the union president told WXIX. “To be having these officers face – from an outside agency – interviews and interrogations referencing criminal cases…in some cases they’re dealing with confidential informants, all these things that they would have to possibly talk about or could be questioned about in these interviews, could threaten these criminal cases.”
“Justice hasn’t been served all the way,” Hils explained. “[Nichols] hasn’t been tried. He hasn’t been sentenced, but yet we’re being put under suspicion.”
“[Officer Utecht] did nothing wrong,” he continued. “The [Citizens Complaint Authority] should be able to see that. Our own internal affairs, our own administration was able to see that from the video.”
Iris Roley, a longtime advocate of the police complaint process, said that the board must investigate citizens’ complaints within 90 days, WLWT reported.
"This a matter of life and death, policy and procedure and making sure that the citizens understand that they have a right, role and responsibility in how their government works for them," Roley told the news outlet.