Video shows now-charged Ohio jail officer punch handcuffed inmate

The Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association believes the veteran CO should not have been charged with a crime


By Adam Ferrise
Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland
        
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Surveillance and body camera videos show a Cuyahoga County Jail officer punch a handcuffed inmate after the two exchange insults.

The county released the video two months after Reion Cook was arrested on misdemeanor charges of assault, interfering with civil rights and dereliction of duty in connection with a Feb. 6 incident at the downtown Cleveland jail.

Cook, 42, previously pleaded not guilty to the charges. Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association attorney Adam Chaloupka said the union will provide Cook with a "full-throated defense" and believes the veteran officer should not have been charged with a crime.

Cleveland police body camera and jail surveillance video shows officers bringing an man into the jail to be booked for drunken driving. He was ultimately not charged with any offense.

The man stood next to the officer and repeatedly said he wasn't drunk, then took off running while a police officer was speaking with a jail officer. The officer caught up to him shortly after, then walked the man back toward the booking area while holding him by the arm.

Cook, who was working in an office, ran into the hallway. The inmate saw Cook and threatened him, saying he'd kick the officer in the stomach.

Cook said he'd punch the inmate in his esophagus while taking a few steps toward the inmate, video shows. The inmate lifted his leg in a kicking motion toward Cook.

Cook lunged at the inmate and punched him in the face, according to the video, prosecutors and an internal sheriff's office investigation into the incident.

The police officer pulled the inmate away from Cook and onto a nearby bench. Cook again punched the inmate in the face as the officer held him down, according to the video and county records.

Other jail officers stepped in and pushed Cook back. Cook later admitted to investigators that he punched the inmate twice, according to county records.

The records also say investigators believe Cook's actions escalated the situation, and that the inmate posed no threat to Cook or anyone else.

Chaloupka disagreed and said Cleveland police failed to properly secure the inmate, leaving Cook open to an assault. He said the language Cook used was necessary.

"Unfortunately, you sometimes you have to respond with strong language to control the situation," Chaloupka said. "After the first strike, he's still not under control by CPD. He's still threatened because he was not under control by CPD, even after the first strike. He hadn't been trained in use-of-force since he was hired and he felt he had no other option but to defend himself."

Cook was placed on paid administrative leave while the criminal case is pending. Cook, who was hired in September 2001, was previously disciplined for sleeping on duty and attendance issues, according to his personnel file.

He received mostly positive performance reviews, including one that said he should take a test to become a supervisor.

(c)2021 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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