The family of Eric Cole, a Black man who died after being run over by a police cruiser, has filed a civil lawsuit against the Springfield, Ohio, police officer who was behind the wheel and two dispatchers who improperly relayed messages about him before he was struck.
Cole called 911 after he was shot and lying in the street following a domestic dispute in June 2021 but instead of helping the man, Springfield officer Amanda Rosales ran him over with her city-issued police SUV.
An internal investigation by the department and Attorney General Dave Yost determined his “death was tragic, but not criminal,” chalking it up as an unfortunate accident, and Rosales was not charged.
The Dec. 14 lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star is not only seeking compensation for the loss of life but for local law enforcement to be fully transparent with the family and the public.
Because the emergency medics did not know he was hit by the police vehicle, he was never treated onsite. Instead, he was transported from the scene by Springfield Fire Division to Springfield Regional Medical Center and then airlifted to Miami Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead the following day, the SPD stated in a press release around the time of the incident.
Dayton 247 Now reported the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office said Cole did not die from the gunshot in his arm but from blunt-force trauma to the torso and extremities. However, the lawsuit alleges that had the medics known Rosales had hit Cole, they could have done more to save his life based on that information.
Attorneys Ben Crump, Michael Wright and Rex Elliott filed the lawsuit on behalf of Joyce Wilson and Taliek Dennis, the co-administrators of Cole’s estate of Eric Eugen Cole against Rosales and Clark County dispatchers Erin Reynolds and Mary Herge. Wilson is Cole’s grandmother and Dennis is his son.
The lawsuit comes months after a grand jury failed to indict the law enforcement officers involved in the case. Rosales was allowed to return to work after being placed on paid administrative leave for over a year.
According to the lawsuit, both dispatchers failed to properly relay the 42-year-old’s location to responding officers or to other dispatchers on their radio. Court documents show both Reynolds and Herge spoke to Cole after he was shot in the shoulder. He left the place where he was shot and called 911 for assistance, WLWT reports.
Cole said multiple times to Dispatcher Herge, “I’m in the middle of the street.”
Later, according to court records quoted in the lawsuit, Herge asked Reynolds, “Did you let them know he was in the middle of the street?”
Reynolds replied, “I didn’t see it.”
“The lawsuit alleges both dispatchers recklessly failed to properly relay Eric’s location to officers responding to the scene and other dispatchers,” Crump’s office stated.
Police reports mention most of the details about the incident, including Rosales being “involved in an accident” with Cole, but not explicitly say she “hit him.”
“The impact from the Springfield Police SUV caused serious, painful, and ultimately deadly injuries to Eric. It fractured 10 of his ribs, fractured his sternum, lacerated his upper back, scraped his skin off in several places, and caused multiple contusions. It also damaged his lungs, causing blood and air to leak into his chest cavity. As blood filled his chest cavity, it became harder and harder for Eric to breathe. Eric feared that he would die,” the complaint read.
“Eric kept telling SPD officers and the medics, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
Cole’s family was not told about him being run over by the police cruiser until a day and a half after the incident and after his death, attorneys said. Officials said Rosales was confused about the location of the shooting and was reading house numbers when she struck the man.
The lawsuit states “Eric was wearing a white shirt, lying with his feet towards the curb and his head towards the middle of the street. He was visible in the cruiser’s headlights for at least 5 seconds before Rosales hit him.”
After all five medics connected to Cole’s case learned from news reports about the accident, they added notes to the initial EMS report stating in detail that not one of them was advised the victim was hit by the cruiser, the complaint says.
“At worst, this was a conspiracy to deceive. Not only to deceive his family … but also the community. At best, they were just reckless,” Crump said.
The attorneys also want the Department of Justice to step in and review the case.
“They’ll look at this incident and they will look at other patterns and practices of what might have happened whether there are patterns and practices of implicit bias or excessive force,” explained Crump.
“Eric Cole leaves behind three children who will never see their father again because of the action and inaction of Springfield Police officers and Clark County dispatchers,” Crump added. “If these defendants had performed their jobs as if lives were at stake, Eric might be here today,”
The family is seeking compensatory damages in an amount exceeding $25,000, according to the lawsuit.
“We are fighting for this family,” attorney Wright said. “The Springfield Police department owes this family transparency. They can’t continue to police if they’re not trusted by the community. We absolutely have to shine a light on what happened in this situation.”