Two East Cleveland, Ohio, police officers have been fired after a robbery suspect accused them of beating him and then throwing him over a cliff.
After his arrest for allegedly stealing an iPhone, suspect Jesse Nickerson filed a complaint against officers Denayne Dixon and Gerald Spencer to a supervisor, Police Chief Michael Cardilli told CNN. The officers allegedly assaulted Nickerson after he was placed under arrest.
"It was a complete shock. ... He told me they had taken him to the park, beaten him up and thrown him over a cliff," Public Defender Heather McCullough, who is representing Nickerson, said. "He had an obvious injury to his face. When he first came in to the courtroom, he stumbled a little bit and he was doubled over."
Cardilli said Nickerson showed “visible signs of an altercation” and had minor abrasions.
The officers have been fired from the force, and the case was referred to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, according to Mayor Gary Norton.
Norton told CNN race is not a factor in the case.
"We are not dealing with an issue of race," Norton said, noting that both the officers and the suspect are African-American. "We are dealing with what is in the minds of individuals that are empowered with a badge and a gun. It is a sickening thing to have to deal with as a mayor."
The officers were suspended without pay within 12 hours after Cardilli learned of the incident and an internal investigation was opened; they were fired within 36 hours.
In 2015, federal investigators determined that Cleveland police officers had been using unnecessary and unreasonable force at a significant rate, with dangerous tactics that put the community at risk, CNN reported.
As part of a legal agreement, a federal court was assigned to keep watch over the city's police department. East Cleveland is a suburb of Cleveland, and they have separate police departments.
"Our police chief is committed to root out all of this stuff and prosecute all of those who engage in it," Norton said of police brutality to CNN. "This is why people are afraid of the police, and we won't stand for it."
The now-former police officers may face charges of police brutality, kidnapping, and assault.