ELYRIA — Cody Jones told jurors Wednesday that Elyria police officers were lying when they testified about him fighting with them when they tried to arrest him last year.
Instead, Jones said during the second day of his trial on assault, resisting arrest and obstructing official business charges, he thought he was in mortal danger during the scuffle that ensued after he was slammed to the ground by officers Anthony Weber and Nicholas Chalkley.
“At the time I felt like I was gonna die,” he said.
Jones said he was walking home from downtown Elyria when he cut behind an East River Street shopping plaza April 23, 2016, and had been talking to two women in the parking just before police arrived.
Weber testified earlier in the trial that he was responding to a call that a man was eating food from trash bins behind the stores and when he found no one, he went to the front of the plaza and spotted Jones. When he arrived, Weber testified, the two women ran past him and thanked him before leaving.
One of those women, Ruth Kennedy, testified she didn’t thank Weber and didn’t leave but instead watched police throw Jones to the ground and struggle with him. She also said Jones wasn’t doing anything wrong when police confronted him and hadn’t been harassing her or the other woman.
She said Jones had been picking up trash in the parking lot and described him as “very nice and cordial” as they discussed the potted plants outside one of the stores.
Police have acknowledged that even if he had been going through a trash bin, Jones hadn’t committed any crimes they were aware of when Weber first encountered him. Instead, they described the beginning of the encounter as a welfare check on the 28-year-old Jones.
Weber said he called out to Jones, who had hidden behind a clothing donation bin. Jones denied he was hiding and said he didn’t know why the officer wanted to talk to him, but he complied with the request to come back and talk to him.
Weber testified that Jones was holding something in his hands and he ordered Jones to drop what was later determined to be vegetables. Jones said he was holding a “big, hearty green pepper.”
Jones acknowledged that he had put his hands in his pockets but took them out when Weber told him to do so. He also said he cooperated with a request to put his hands on the police cruiser hood so he could be frisked for weapons.
He said things changed when he turned around to ask why he was being detained. Weber and Chalkley both said Jones took a swing at Chalkley, and they reacted by forcing him to the ground.
“As I turned, it was immediately straight to the ground,” Jones said. “Immediately forced to the ground, shoved with a forearm in the back of my neck, my face mounted into the pavement to the point where I could, I could barely move, and it was then that it all began.”
He said as soon as he was on the ground he began to feel blows from the officers as he pulled his hands up underneath his body so he could breathe.
“My face was like a cheese grater almost on the pavement, and it just continued,” he said.
Police have said that Jones struggled with officers and grabbed for Chalkley’s gun and groin before he was hit multiple times with a Taser by Weber, who said he had to use the device in “drive stun” mode before police were able to gain control of Jones’ arms. Jones denied grabbing for Chalkley’s gun or his groin during the scuffle.
Although Weber said it didn’t appear Jones was affected by the first two charges of electricity, Jones said he felt them.
Elyria police Sgt. Richard Buckway said when he arrived at the scene, Weber, Chalkley and Officer Paige Mitchell already were struggling with Jones, and he replaced the exhausted Chalkley in the melee. He said Jones continued to move around, even after he was handcuffed.
“He appeared incoherent to a point,” Buckway said.
Jones eventually was placed in a police car and taken to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, where he remained for around a week. Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Stephanie Malinowski said Wednesday that some of that time was because Jones was being held for a mental health evaluation.
Jones has filed an excessive force lawsuit against Elyria police because of his treatment during his arrest. An internal review by police determined excessive force wasn’t used by the arresting officers.
The trial resumes today before county Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery.
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