Authorities in Ohio are calling a horrific incident that ended in the death of a Black man who was run over by a officer after calling for help after being shot “an accident.”
“This was an accident,” said Springfield police Chief Lee Graf. “That doesn’t mean it was OK. But it was an accident. This was not an intentional act on the part of the officer. I’m sure of that.”
Shortly before 11:30 p.m. on June 13, Eric Eugene Cole, 42, was lying on his back in the street when responding Officer Amanda Rosales, struck him in a police SUV. Cole, who had suffered a gunshot wound to the arm, called 911 shortly before he was run over, according to Graf.
“The lead officer was trying to catch addresses on the house. Eric was lying in the street,” Graf said at a Wednesday press conference.
The father of three was flown to a hospital and pronounced dead after midnight. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office is working to determine Cole’s cause of death. Answers about his cause of death could take up to 12 weeks, according to investigator Brandy Burchett, pending toxicology results. Preliminary results show that Cole suffered blunt-force trauma to his torso, including abrasions on his back and lower chest, lacerations on his left shoulder and back, and fracture of his sternum and of multiple ribs.
Rosales was reportedly confused about the location of the shooting and was reading house numbers when she struck Cole, whom she did not see, Graf said. Rosales, who has been with the department since January 2020, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. In addition to an internal investigation, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is also conducting a crash investigation.
Cole’s family is seeking answers about the incident and questioning authorities’ narrative of events. They claim they weren’t initially told that a cruiser ran over Cole and an incident report also failed to mention the fact. According to officials, the incident report didn’t mention that Cole had been run over because that report was about the shooting, whereas a separate report about the vehicle incident by Highway Patrol included the information.
The family says the didn’t find out that Cole had been struck by a police vehicle until two days later when a doctor at the hospital informed them. At first they believed the people who shot Cole also ran over him. Now that they know the truth, the family doesn’t believe what happened was an accident.
“There is no way that she did not see him,” said Lekesha Bradford, Cole’s sister. “My brother made the 911 call. He was on the phone with dispatch and said he was in the middle of the street.” She added, “You all see it as an accident. We don’t.”
Dashcam footage of the incident shows the police cruiser approach as Cole is supine against the dark street in a white T-shirt.
“They just hit me, the police,” Cole is heard saying on the 911 call, the Springfield News-Sun reported.
Cole is visible in the dashcam footage for several seconds before the vehicle makes contact with him, but according to Graf, the view from the dashcam is not the same as what the officer is seeing. “That camera focuses where it’s pointed. It’s not an indicator of what the officer was seeing,” Graf said.
After civil rights attorney Ben Crump posted footage of the incident, people suggested Cole was clearly visible. Crump described the footage, “Eric Cole, a shooting victim, was on the phone with 911 when Springfield Ofc. Amanda Rosales ran over him with her police cruiser! Eric later died. The just-released dascham shows he was visible to Ofc. Rosales for 5 SECONDS before she ran over his body! #JusticeForEricCole”
“He was in plain site plus he told the dispatcher he was in the middle of the street which inturn related this to the officers. Just incompetent,” said one user.
“She saw him. This is a murder. He was still awake and talking after being shot and she rolled an suv over him.” said another. One user simply asked, “How in the hell did she NOT SEE HIM??”
Police believe the shooting involving Cole stemmed from a conflict between multiple people, although no arrests have been made.