CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — An arrest of a Cleveland man in September during a traffic stop is raising questions about how police handled the situation after a video posted Monday of the incident went viral.
Demetrius Kern, 37, ended up being handcuffed and then ticketed for obstruction of official business on Sept. 22 after he claimed that his car was almost hit by a police cruiser that was attempting to pull over another vehicle in front of him.
The stop prompted a police investigation to determine what happened. The results of that investigation are under review, the city said in a statement Tuesday.
The case against Kern was dismissed on Oct. 3 by a Cleveland Heights Municipal Court judge. Court records show a prosecutor checked a box on a motion indicating the city did not have enough evidence to sustain a conviction. The prosecutor also checked a box citing “additional evidence which raises a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt.”
Although the charge was dismissed and the incident happened months ago, the video posted Monday, which includes officers’ body-camera footage of the arrest, had received more than 66,000 views as of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. There also were nearly 2,000 comments on the video, many questioning the officers’ actions.
The incident started when Kern claimed he was cut off by a police cruiser driven by officer Carley Lewis while driving on Mayfield Road, according to the video. Lewis claims she turned on her lights and siren before she pulled in front of Kern in order to pull over a vehicle in front of him, a claim Kern disputes.
While Lewis began her traffic stop, Kern stopped behind her in order to complain about being cut off. Lewis tells him to wait on the sidewalk while she deals with the other driver, which Kern does. Lewis also calls for backup.
Lewis then talks with Kern and she apologizes for cutting him off, but insists she had turned on her siren and lights and says he should have yielded. Kern again disputes this and accuses Lewis of almost running him off the road.
Tensions increase when a second officer, identified in the video as Sgt. Naftali Wolf, arrives and begins talking with Kern. Lewis says she’s willing to let Kern go, but she asks him to give them his name and he refuses.
Wolf then threatens to arrest Kern on a charge of obstruction. Kern begins to get angry, saying “You are violating my rights.” He tells Wolf he has no obligation to give his name because he says he didn’t commit a crime.
Both officers say his refusal to provide a name is obstruction. Kern again refuses and Wolf ends up cuffing him and putting him in the back of a patrol car. Kern does identify himself after he’s arrested.
“Why are you full of machismo man? What’s wrong with you, man?” Kern says to Wolf.
Wolf answers, “Dude, have a seat, I’m not putting up with your bull----.” Lewis again says she’s willing to let Kern go, but Wolf tells her to write a ticket for obstruction.
“I’m not going to sit out here and argue with somebody for an hour the legalities of it,” Wolf says. “He can come to court.” Kern, while still cuffed, threatens to file a lawsuit against the police department.
Lewis later can be heard apologizing to Kern for having to write him a ticket, but says she has to because of orders from the sergeant. Kern challenges her, saying she should stand up to Wolf because she knows he did nothing wrong.
“You swore an oath to the constitution and you know what’s right and wrong and sometimes you got to stand up to people and say ‘no,’ ” Kern says. Kern is allowed to drive away from the scene.
The city said it is taking the matter “very seriously.”
“Following Mr. Kern’s complaint about the Sept. 22, 2022, incident, Cleveland Heights Police Chief Chris Britton immediately launched a full investigation to determine what happened, why and what steps the city of Cleveland Heights should take in response,” the city said in a statement. “The results of this investigation are currently under review, and any information produced in this investigation will be open and available to the public.”