FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) –The Fort Wayne officer whose actions have stirred up a comparison to Ferguson has a history of suspensions and lawsuits.
Rick Stevenson, Democratic candidate for mayor, said the white officer should have been fired after he shot and killed a Hispanic man in 2007. The Wayne Township Trustee made the controversial remarks at the end of Saturday’s candidate forum at the Urban League.
“The Fort Wayne Police department needs some direction. They need to be cleaned up,” Stevenson said. “How do you kill someone like that and then send them out? He [the officer] should have hit the streets for unemployment.”
Stevenson was referring to the death of Jose Lemus-Rodriguez. At the time, police said Lemus-Rodriguez led them on a chase and started to ram his vehicle into patrol cars near the intersection of Oxford and Warsaw Streets.
According to court documents, Lemus-Rodriguez was backing his vehicle away from police when Officer James Arnold shot him 15 times, ultimately killing him. Arnold had only been on the department for a couple months.
Lemus-Rodriguez’ family filed a lawsuit against Arnold and the city, which was settled for an undisclosed amount of money.
Since then, FWPD has suspended Arnold five times in five years. The disciplinary actions include:
- Three vehicle accidents–suspended one day for each one
- Reporting infractions of rules–suspended three days
- Excessive force–suspended 30 days
Arnold never received any disciplinary action for the police action shooting, which is why Stevenson said he was criticizing city administration in the first place.
“We lack the confidence in the city administration,” Stevenson told NewsChannel 15. “I’m here to try to say that I can run Fort Wayne a lot better.”
In January, Arnold became the defendant in a second lawsuit. This time, the plaintiff is the victim of excessive force allegations (for which Arnold was suspended). Following a traffic stop, Casey Wentzel said Arnold punched, elbowed, and knee’d him in the head and neck area several times, fracturing his skull.
The second lawsuit is still pending.
Regardless, Stevenson’s comments have ignited criticism from every public safety union in Fort Wayne.
“If he’s got a problem with the administration, don’t use the police department as your pawn,” said Jon Bonar, president of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. “He wasn’t there. He doesn’t know. He’s going off what somebody else told him. There’s always two sides to every story.”