Circuit Court Upholds Juan Ortiz's Use-of-Force Case Against Cleveland Officers, Which Will Now Head to Trial

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Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the case of Juan Ortiz against Cleveland police officers Brian Kazimer  and Dan Crisan, two officers who roughed up the then-16-year-old boy during a 2010 incident. The case will head to trial, where the officers "will have the chance to give their version of events to a jury," according to the opinion.

Scene published an extensive feature on the case last year.

In short: Officers responded to a robbery incident in the westside's Jefferson neighborhood. While seeking the suspects  — one described as white and of average height, the other black and of average height — two officers spotted Ortiz, all of 4'11" and Hispanic. Ortiz also has Down Syndrome, and when he saw the officers, he began to run.

When Kazimer caught up with him, he "grabbed Juan from behind, forcefully pulled him from his mother's arms, and slammed him very hard into [a] vehicle like a football player making a tackle," according to eyewitnesses. He held the boy against the car for 15 minutes. Ortiz was "not making any effort to resist" and was "crying out in pain." (At some point in the struggle, a nearby apartment manager told the officers that the wallet from the initial robbery report had been recovered. Neither officer responded.)

Kazimer and Crisan then hurled racist epithets at his parents and other onlookers. Kazimer told Ortiz's parents that they were lucky he didn't shoot the boy. 

Today, based on witness input and the officers' affidavits, the court ruled that, due to the nature of the incident, the defendant officers cannot fall back on "state-law immunity." 

The Ortiz family's attorney, Subodh Chandra, said: "The Ortiz family is gratified that they will have their day in court to hold the officers accountable for hurting young Juan and for hurling racist slurs at the family—even while city officials continue to refuse to hold the officers accountable."

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