NAACP President: Force used on juvenile in Clark County detention justified

The NAACP Springfield president says she believes Clark County Juvenile Detention Center employees acted properly when they used pepper spray to restrain a teenage boy in July.

NAACP Springfield President Denise Williams said she reviewed video of the July 31 incident when a teenage boy was detained because he allegedly refused to complete community service. Williams said the boy was handcuffed during the pepper spray incident, but that the teen was being aggressive towards staff before they deployed the spray.

“They were trying to subdue him because he was in danger of hurting himself and others and the video showed that,” Williams said.

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The Springfield News-Sun first reported that the detention center had opened an internal investigation into the incident in August. It’s common practice for the center to do so when force is used to control a child, Clark County Court Administrator Wynette Carter-Smith previously said.

The Springfield News-Sun has been unable to obtain the video. Carter-Smith said the video isn’t public record but would be released if the mother of the teen gave permission. The boy’s mother has not returned multiple phone calls from the Springfield News-Sun since the original interview.

Williams said the initial complaint filed with her office accused officials of roughing up the teen. Pictures taken of the teen reviewed by the Springfield News-Sun showed the boy’s face was swollen and his eyes red. A viral social media post with the pictures accused detention center staff of hurting the boy.

"(He) got manhandled by not one but at least five grown men then thrown in a holding cell handcuffed and got pepper sprayed once he was already in a cell handcuffed!!!.." the post says. "I know my child can be disrespectful and can act out but this is not acceptable. I don't care what anyone has to say my child should not look like this and the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center in Springfield Ohio is trying to justify and to push the way he looks up underneath the rug."

However, the video shows officials didn’t do that, Williams said.

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“What I saw in the video, I don’t know what else they could have done,” Williams said. “I’m not a social worker. But I don’t know if I could stop him from doing what he was doing.”

Williams said the boy’s own actions and an allergic reaction to the pepper spray caused his injuries.

She said the case is why she is careful not to condemn public officials before getting all the facts.

“We do a thorough investigation and we look at all sides of the situation,” Williams said. “Because of the pictures that were placed on social media, those workers have received death threats, nasty emails and text messages.”

She said those messages need to stop.

“It needs to end right now because the community has no idea of the other side of the story,” Williams said. “The police department, sheriff’s office and detention center did not abuse this kid.”

Carter-Smith declined to comment about the threats.

The Clark County Juvenile Detention Center has finished its investigation, Carter-Smith said.

“The court has finished its internal review of the July 31, 2018 use of force incident in our detention facility,” she said in an email.

“Our internal review was consistent with the findings of law enforcement. We found that all procedures were properly followed and that staff acted appropriately in the circumstances,” Carter-Smith said in a separate email.

Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf told the Springfield News-Sun his division had completed their investigation and passed it along to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office.

Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said his office did review the investigation and found no criminal wrongdoing.

“Nothing criminal happened,” Wilson said. “They were within their administrative policy and there was no criminal activity.”

He said he has not received a report from law enforcement investigating death threats sent to the detention center.

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