- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - A man who says he had his hands in the air and was unarmed when a Cleveland police officer shot him in the chest over a traffic violation last year has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, saying the officer’s actions were “extreme and outrageous” and that department leaders have fostered an atmosphere ripe for constitutional violations.

Greg Love, 29, of the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, and two others involved in the June shooting filed the suit in federal court on Feb. 13. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and names the city, police Chief Calvin Williams, and the officer who shot Love, Vincent Montague Jr.

Spokeswomen for the city and police department declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Montague’s listed phone number does not accept messages.

In court records and an interview with The Associated Press this week, Love said he experiences emotional and physical pain as a result of the shooting, becomes nervous when he sees a police officer and struggles to sleep at night.

“It’s an eerie feeling, to know you could have lost your life to a gunshot by a police officer,” Love said. “These are the people I’m supposed to call when I need help.”

Montague returned to full duty this month after he was suspended for three days for putting himself “in a position of imminent danger” for reaching into Love’s vehicle during the traffic stop, according to a police department document provided by the city.

City and police spokeswomen declined to reveal the results of a use-of-force investigation into the shooting and a public records request for a copy of the investigation had not been processed by Sunday. A prosecutor who reviewed the case declined to press criminal charges, city spokeswoman Maureen Harper said.

After his suspension, Montague was assigned to non-sensitive work without public interaction for 45 days before being assigned to transitional duty in the sex crimes unit between September and Feb. 6.

Love was driving with a friend in downtown Cleveland’s popular warehouse district around 2 a.m. June 23 when he came to one of the city’s busiest intersections, filled with packed bars and restaurants. A concert had just let out and the streets were filled with pedestrians and cars.

A confused Love made an illegal right turn from the center lane onto a closed street that he thought was open, prompting Officer Montague to step in front of Love’s car, according to the lawsuit.

Love said that Montague ignored his questions about how to proceed while glaring at him for nearly two minutes, so Love backed up and continued on a different street.

That’s when Montague drew his weapon, Love alleges, prompting him and his friend to put their arms up. Love said that Montague then reached into his car to try to turn it off but couldn’t find the key.

The lawsuit alleges that Montague then pointed the gun at Love and fired. The bullet hit Love in the chest and lodged into his right arm.

“He literally lost his mind,” Love said. “He shot me in the chest and I was doing absolutely nothing wrong.”

Another officer responding to Montague’s call of “shots fired” forced Love out of his car and put him in handcuffs until paramedics arrived and ordered him freed to be taken to a hospital.

Love was charged four months after the shooting. He pleaded guilty to making an illegal turn. A charge of eluding police was dropped.

Love’s lawsuit comes as the Cleveland police department is under federal investigation for allegedly using excessive force in a fatal November 2012 shooting in which 13 officers fired 137 shots on two unarmed people who led them on a 5-mile chase. The driver, 43-year-old Timothy Russell, was shot 23 times. His passenger, 30-year-old Malissa Williams, was shot 24 times, with one officer standing on the hood of their car, firing into the passenger compartment. Both were killed.

Critics called the shooting a racially motivated execution, while the police union said the officers used force to confront a driver using his vehicle as a potentially deadly weapon.

An investigation by the Ohio attorney general blamed police leadership and communications failures.

“This attitude of ‘it’s us versus the community,’ that’s going on in Cleveland is a huge problem,” said Love’s attorney, Nicholas DiCello. “This is deep-seated and when we see stuff like this happen, you understand why members of the community just have no faith or trust in our police.”


Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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