Springfield police, state investigate after gunshot victim hit by cruiser

Corah Belle, right, and Chandlor Robinson, cousins of Eric Cole, light some of the candles that had gone out on the memorial along South Center Street near where Cole was shot and than run over by a responding police officer Sunday night. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Caption
Corah Belle, right, and Chandlor Robinson, cousins of Eric Cole, light some of the candles that had gone out on the memorial along South Center Street near where Cole was shot and than run over by a responding police officer Sunday night. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Eric Eugene Cole died Monday, and his cause of death is still to be determined.

A Springfield police officer is on administrative leave after she struck a shooting victim while responding to a 911 call Sunday night.

The investigation into the incident involving the officer is being investigated by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, according to Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf.

Springfield Police Division is conducting the investigation into the shooting, Graf said.

The victim, Eric Eugene Cole, 42, was flown by CareFlight to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he died Monday morning, according to the Montgomery County coroner.

Officers were dispatched around 11:22 p.m. Sunday to the 1400 block of South Center Boulevard on a report of someone shot. The first officer to respond to the scene was “involved in an accident with the shooting victim,” identified as Cole, according to police.

The cause of death had not been determined as of Wednesday afternoon, according Graf.

The officer involved in the incident was identified as Amanda Rosales.

“This was an accident,” Graf said. “That doesn’t mean it’s OK. This was not an intentional act by the officer. I am sure of that.”

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Graf said Cole was struck by a police cruiser as he lay on the street bleeding from a gunshot wound.

Graf said it is procedure to have a third party investigate these matters.

Graf joined Springfield city officials, the chairmen of the Community Police Advisory Team James Bacon as well as the president of the local NAACP Denise Williams Wednesday morning for a press conference to discuss the shooting as well as the incident with the police cruiser. State patrol officials did not attend the press conference.

Shortly before the shooting, police received multiple reports of a disturbance and argument where guns were shown. A few minutes later, they received a report of shots fired.

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“As part of those calls and those dispatch tapes, it was alleged that (Cole) was out there along with other people and there was some type of disturbance or quarrel,” Graf said.

As officers responded, the chief added, there was some confusion about where the shooting occurred before the address was confirmed.

Graf said no arrests have been made. He added that he could not go into detail about whether any suspects regarding the shooting have been identified as of Wednesday afternoon.

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Members of the Springfield Police Division have met with Cole’s family. Graf said he felt it was important to talk with the family and prepare them before details were released to the public.

Mayor Warren Copeland and City Manager Bryan Heck, as well as Graf, all expressed their condolences to the family.

“This is a tragic, tragic event and we will treat it as such,” said Copeland. “This is a sad day for all of us.”

“Every one of these incidents involves family, loved ones and friends. We should always approach these things with that in mind,” Graf said.

Graf said that Rosales did not see Cole on the street and that the officer stopped immediately and began to render aid after the incident.

Footage taken from the officer’s dash camera shows Cole on the road before being hit by the vehicle. Graf said that does not mean that footage captures what Rosales was seeing at the time. He added that the dash camera is stationary and is located on the back of vehicle’s rear-view mirror.

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“That camera focuses where it is pointed. It is not an indicator of what the officer is seeing. It is not an indicator of where they are looking,” Graf said.

Rosales has been with Springfield police for more than a year and had started her shift shortly before responding to reports of shots being fired.

An incident report filed by the Springfield police regarding the shooting stated that officers responded to the scene and observed a male lying on the south bound lane in the 1300 block of South Center Boulevard.

In terms of the shooting, police had received reports in the 400 block of West Liberty Avenue of an incident in which guns were displayed and later when shots were fired.

Graf said that they started to receive those calls at around 11:16 p.m.

“A few minutes later there was an allegation that shots had been fired,” Graf said, he noted that shortly after, officers received calls that a person had been shot in the 1400 block of South Center Boulevard.

According to records obtained by the News-Sun, at least seven people called 911 regarding the shooting incident, including Cole.

“Please come and get me. I’m about to die… I’m in the middle of the street,” Cole told 911 dispatchers.

“Somebody shot me in the arm. I don’t know who shot me. I’m dying,” he added to dispatchers.

According to the recordings, Cole was also on the phone with dispatchers when he was struck by a cruiser.

He is heard on the call saying, “They just hit me, the police.”

The incident report filed by the police division stated that Cole appeared to have a gun shot wound to the left arm and left shoulder.

The incident report did not mention that Cole was struck by a police cruiser. Graf said that was because the report only related to the shooting incident and a separate report was done by the highway patrol regarding what is being described as a vehicle-pedestrian accident.

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“A 2019 Ford Explorer, driven by SPD Officer Amanda M. Rosales, was southbound on South Center Boulevard with her lights and sirens activated. The SPD cruiser struck a pedestrian who was lying in the roadway suffering from a gunshot wound and immediately came to a stop,” stated an email sent to the News-Sun by a spokesperson with the highway patrol.

Graf added that the city is working to determine what can be done to prevent this from happening again.

When asked about distracted driving, Graf said that officers do have accidents, but the department reminds officers to stay aware of their surroundings while behind the wheel and to try to avoid using their laptop and phones.

“Accidents do happen in policing. Again, I do not say that to downplay this. But we try to minimize that by reminding officers to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “Obviously we’re going to look into this and, obviously, I don’t ever want this to happen again.”