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Published: Tuesday, 5/11/2010

Motorcyclist recalls being shot by Ottawa Hills officer

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Seated in a wheelchair before a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury, Michael McCloskey, Jr., recounted Tuesday what he remembered of the night he was shot by an Ottawa Hills police officer.

During day two of the trial of Officer Thomas White, Mr. McCloskey was one of four witnesses who testified. Officer White, who has been on leave since the May 23, 2009, shooting, is charged with felonious assault with a gun specification.

If convicted, the officer could be sentenced up to 11 years in prison.

Mr. McCloskey testified that he and a friend were riding motorcycles at about 2:15 a.m. when they took a route down Indian Road in Ottawa Hills. He said that because of the noise of his Harley Davidson motorcycle, it wasn't until he had come to a complete stop at Central Avenue and began idling that he realized a police vehicle was behind him with its lights and sirens activated.

It was moments later that he felt what he described as "excruciating pain."

"I heard a yell. It wasn't a distinct word, it was a human voice," he testified. "I remember feeling instant paralysis. … I reared up but with instant paralysis, I couldn't do anything so I fell."

The jury of nine women and three men watched a video of the incident taken from the dashboard camera mounted in Officer White's patrol vehicle. The recording shows Officer White following the two motorcycles for several minutes before activating his lights and sirens.

It is within seconds of Officer White exiting his vehicle that Mr. McCloskey can be seen being shot.

In response to questions asked by defense attorney Jerry Phillips, Mr. McCloskey acknowledged that he did not raise his hands. He further acknowledged that his first statement to investigators was that he heard the officer order him to put up his hands, although he said yesterday that it was too loud to distinguish the command.

"I believe I was in the process of shifting from gear to neutral when I was shot," he said. "…It happened so fast, I didn't have time to comply."

Also testifying Tuesday was Ottawa Hills Police Officer Christopher Sargent, who was the second officer on duty that night, a crime scene analyst, and Klint Sharpe, a friend of Mr. McCloskey's who drove up on the scene.

The story as it appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

The counter ticking away on video indicated it was seconds - possibly just three - between the time Ottawa Hills Police Officer Thomas White exited his patrol vehicle and when Michael McCloskey can be seen falling to the ground.

It was at that moment, an investigator testified yesterday, that Officer White had fired a single shot.

The video taken at about 2:15 a.m. on May 23 last year by the dashboard camera of Officer White's patrol car was shown in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday, during the first day of his criminal trial.

Accused of shooting Mr. McCloskey once in the back, Officer White, 27, is charged with felonious assault with a gun specification.

Assistant County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson tells jurors that the Ottawa Hills officer was not justified in the shooting of the motorcyclist and that excessive force was used.<br>
<b>(THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT)</b><br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/video.gif> <font color=red><b>VIEW</b></font>: <a href=" http://control.newsinc.com/Playlist/show?vcid=81822&freewheel=59432&sitesection=toledoblade"target="_blank"><b>Apparent shooting by Ottawa Hills police</b></a> <font size=2><font color=blue><b>WARNING</b></font></font>: <b>This video contains graphic images of a shooting</b> Assistant County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson tells jurors that the Ottawa Hills officer was not justified in the shooting of the motorcyclist and that excessive force was used.<br> <b>(THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT)</b><br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/video.gif> <font color=red><b>VIEW</b></font>: <a href=" http://control.newsinc.com/Playlist/show?vcid=81822&freewheel=59432&sitesection=toledoblade"target="_blank"><b>Apparent shooting by Ottawa Hills police</b></a> <font size=2><font color=blue><b>WARNING</b></font></font>: <b>This video contains graphic images of a shooting</b>
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

A part-time dispatcher and part-time police officer for the village of Ottawa Hills, Officer White faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

During opening statements yesterday afternoon, Assistant County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson told jurors that prosecutors intend to prove that

Officer White "was not justified" in the shooting and that "excessive force was used."

He said Mr. McCloskey, 25, and another motorcyclist were riding home from a nightspot where Mr. McCloskey worked as security.


While driving down Indian Road in Ottawa Hills, nearing West Central Avenue, the two motorcyclists were followed and then stopped by Officer White, he said.

"There was no reason for Officer White to fire his weapon or even pull his gun," Mr. Anderson told jurors.

He added that the result was Officer White "shooting Mr. McCloskey in the back."

Defense attorney Jerry Phillips countered during opening statements that the situation was "tense and fluid" and that Officer White "was doing his job."

He asked jurors to judge the officer using only the knowledge that he had - and not "with 20/20 hindsight."

"He was patrolling in Ottawa Hills. He didn't anticipate any problems, he wasn't looking for any problems," Mr. Phillips said. "… The force that was used by Officer White on that occasion was reasonable force to protect himself and [a fellow officer on scene.]"

The jury of nine women and three men viewed the video of the incident, which was recorded on the camera inside Officer White's patrol car.

The 14-minute video begins several minutes before Officer White activates his lights and sirens and continues until paramedics arrive to care for the wounded motorcyclist.

The video shows the officer firing his weapon, followed by several minutes of the fallen motorcyclist - only his left leg showing on the bike while his right lay out of sight underneath the bike. At one point, the recording picks up audio of Mr. McCloskey yelling that he'd been paralyzed.

Special Agent David Pauly, of the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, testified that the camera was manually turned on and then off by Officer White.

The investigator of the incident, the special agent testified that it was moments after Officer White exited his car that the gunshot could be heard.

"Officer White is out of the car, yells something, and fires his weapon. That's about three seconds," Agent Pauly said.

During questions from both attorneys, Agent Pauly said that both Mr. McCloskey and the fellow motorcyclist, Aaron Snyder, stopped for about 10 seconds on Indian Road at Westchester Road before taking off again at speeds higher than the posted 25 mph limit. He said it took Mr. McCloskey about five seconds - about 600 feet - to stop his motorcycle after the officer had activated his lights and sirens behind him.

On the video, the police car is stopped behind the motorcyle and Mr. McCloskey is looking back toward the officer. This is when Mr. McCloskey is apparently shot by the officer, who is not shown at this time, and the victim falls off his motorcyle.

The officer then appears on the screen and has his gun drawn while the victim is on the ground. After a period, the officer and another man lift the motorcycle off of the victim.

Mr. Snyder, Agent Pauley said, continued through Central Avenue on a median before being stopped on the other side.

Although saying that Mr. Snyder may have been fleeing from police, Agent Pauly said he did not believe Mr. McCloskey was.

Agent Pauly also testified that Mr. McCloskey had a 2-inch knife concealed in his boot. Despite a search of Mr. McCloskey by Officer White after the shooting, the knife was not found at the scene, he said.

In response to questions from Mr. Phillips, the special agent acknowledged that the Ottawa Hills Police Department's use of force policy dictates that deadly force is used only if the officer feels his life is in jeopardy or the lives of fellow officers or the general public are in jeopardy. He also acknowledged to the defense that he knew of no bad blood between Officer White and Mr. McCloskey.

"From your investigation, why did Officer White shoot Mr. McCloskey on May 23, 2009?" Mr. Phillips asked.

"It's unknown," he responded.

Agent Pauly is the first of several witnesses expected to testify during the anticipated week-long trial before Judge Gary Cook.

Expected to testify today is Mr. McCloskey, who has been in a wheelchair since the incident because of paralysis from the waist down.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com,

or 419-213-2134.



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