City settles with woman who claimed Stow police used excessive force when deploying Taser

Law director believes Chelsea Garrett may have violated nondisclosure agreement

by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter Published:

Stow -- The city reached a settlement $100,000 settlement Jan. 11 with an Akron woman who claimed the Stow Police Department used excessive force when officers deployed a Taser on her after a traffic stop following a hit-skip accident in November 2011.

Chelsea Garrett filed a lawsuit against the city and police department in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio last spring.

Her attorney, Nicholas DiCello, told the Stow Sentry last March the suit was filed because the Tasing of Garrett was believed to be unnecessary and a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights.

DiCello did not respond to a request for comment by press time Feb. 14.

According to a Feb. 13 press release from the city, "During the mediation process, the city's insurance carrier made a purely financial decision to settle the lawsuit for $100,000. In that settlement, there was no finding by the court of liability or wrongdoing on the part of the city of Stow, its police department or any city employee."

Stow Law Director Brian Reali emphasized the settlement doesn't mean the city was liable for anything.

The incident where Garrett was Tased occurred Nov. 5, 2011 after Garrett reportedly left the scene of an accident after her vehicle bounced off a road median on Route 8 at Gorge Boulevard in Akron and struck another vehicle.

According to Akron Municipal Court, Akron Police later charged Garrett with an OVI, but the case was dismissed.

A report by the Stow Police Department's Use of Force Committee, which reviews all cases of use of force, indicated that after being stopped by police -- who reportedly followed Garrett for some time with lights and sirens activated -- Garrett opened her driver's side door, got out of her vehicle and approached police.

Police said a dashcam video showed that Garrett approached an officer's car in "a staggering manner," according to the police report.

She failed to get on the ground as instructed, police said, and Garrett was pushed away, which knocked her down.

When she tried to stand back up, an officer reportedly tried to stun her with his Taser for the first time, but the Taser missed and did not activate.

Garrett reportedly fell once more, again refusing to comply with instructions to stay down, which is when police "applied a drive stun."

According to the press release, while the officer was holding Garrett down and awaiting backup, she tried to stand again, and the officer applied a second drive stun with the Taser.

A second officer arrived to handcuff Garrett, who was not Tased again after being restrained.

The police department's use of force committee determined in December 2011 that the use of a Taser on the woman was within the department's rules.

Garrett, who was originally charged with reckless operation and obstruction of official business by Stow police, was later found guilty of a reckless operation charge in Stow Municipal Court.

Details of the settlement came to light after Garrett did a "factually inaccurate" interview with a local broadcast news affiliate last week, according to the city's press release.

The release also notes Garrett signed a nondisclosure agreement, which the city believes she violated by doing the interview.

"The city was disappointed to see her and her attorney coordinate with the media to conduct a sensationalized television interview," the release reads. "The nondisclosure agreement was executed to keep false and erroneous facts out of the media."

"We're just [issuing the press release] to clear the air here," Reali said.

Reali said he's unaware if Garrett has already received the settlement money, which is administered through the insurance company.

Whether there are any ramifications for Garrett possibly violating a nondisclosure agreement has yet to be determined.

"There's a very good chance we may take legal action to remedy the situation," said Reali at a Feb. 14 City Council meeting.

Email: jnobile@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400, ext. 4179

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