Case Summary

After purchasing a soft drink and a cigar in a Cincinnati gas station, Roger Owensby, Jr. was approached by several Cincinnati police officers on Election Day, November 2, 2000. The officers claimed they were looking for a suspect. In fact, the only thing Mr. Owensby had in common with the suspect was that he was an African-American male.

Mr. Owensby cooperated with the officers, consented to a pat-down search–which produced nothing–and answered all the officers’ questions. He told the officers that he was not wanted and asked that they run his name in their computer to verify this fact. The officer chose not to check on their computers and, nonetheless, decided to arrest him. Mr. Owensby attempted to leave.

At this point the Cincinnati police officers tackled Mr. Owensby face-down on the asphalt, beat him, knelt on his back, cuffed him, maced him in the face twice, beat him after he was handcuffed, drug him to a Golf Manor police cruiser. One officer continued to beat him even though he was unconscious and handcuffed on the back seat of the cruiser. As the federal court found:

“Despite having at least eleven Cincinnati police officers and two Golf Manor police officers on the general scene or in the immediate vicinity at this time–three of whom were trained Emergency Medical Technicians–no officer provided any medical care to Roger Owensby.”

This ruling was only the second time in 30 years that such a case was won on summary judgment by a plaintiff.

The Coroner found that the officers crushed the air from Mr. Owensby’s lungs, ruling that Mr. Owensby’s death a “homicide” the result of “police intervention: asphyxiation during restraint attempts.” This finding was verified by an independent forensic pathologist selected by the City of Cincinnati.

Based on exhaustive discovery we conducted, the federal court issued a 91 page opinion concluding that this was a rare case in which the evidence submitted was so overwhelming and egregious that a reasonable jury could only find against the officers for violating Mr. Owensby’s constitutional right to medical care and against the municipalities as well as their police chiefs for failing to train properly their police officers. This ruling was only the second time in 30 years that such a case was won on summary judgment by a plaintiff.

Helmer, Martins, Rice & Popham successfully defended several appeals taken by the defendants to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. We then prepared for trial.

On the eve of trial in 2006 a record breaking settlement of $7,535,000 was reached.


Personal Injury


Estate of Roger D. Owensby, Jr. v. City of Cincinnati, et al.


01-CV-769 (S.D. Ohio)

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