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Ex-Warrensville Heights police officer fired after viral rant about police shootings of black men speaks out

September 20, 2018

Ex-Warrensville Heights police officer fired after viral rant about police shootings of black men speaks out

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — Florida civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump has been hired to represent a former Warrensville Heights police officer who has accused the city of firing her in retaliation to a Facebook video she made decrying deadly force used by officers against people of color.

Nakia Jones said the Warrensville Heights Police Department fired her after she made a video in July 2016 following the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Jones, who would’ve celebrated 22 years in law enforcement this week, said she made the video after one of her sons asked her about the shooting that grabbed national headlines and spurred protests.

“I wanted to let America know why I had to speak up,” she said during a tearful press conference Thursday in the parking lot of Warrensville Heights library. “It was never against law enforcement. My son came home and asked me if I am going to be the next African-American male killed by the same people who wear the same uniform that you wore.”

Jones was joined by Crump and her husband, Kevin Jones, a Lakewood police officer during the press conference.  

In the seven-minute video, Jones spoke about how she believed racist white police officers have no business being in uniform. The video garnered more than 8.2 million views and cycled through local and national news outlets.

Jones filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Mayor Brad Sellers and police Chief Wesley Haynes after she was fired in October 2017 for misusing paid leave time following an on duty crash months prior that required her to take medical leave.

Warrensville Heights declined to comment about the lawsuit, citing their “policy is to not comment on ongoing litigation,” said June Scharf, director of communications for Warrensville Heights.

Jones said she has received hate mail and death threats, including that she deserves to have a bullet put in the back of her head. She said she has been abandoned by the department and she’s served since 2002 after a stint with East Cleveland and Highland Hills police departments.

Officials with The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents Warrensville Heights rank-and-file officers, said they filed a grievance against the department the day Jones was terminated and sent the matter to an arbitrator in February. A fourth hearing with the arbitrator is scheduled for later this year. 

But Jones and Crump both said the reasons the city cited in her firing amounted to a violation of her First Amendment rights.

“I am here because this is not a local matter. This is a national matter,” Crump said. “This matter of the conspiracy to terminate Nakia Jones for speaking out on a private Facebook post about the concerns of her son, her African-American son, who feared that he may possibly be the next person killed arbitrarily by a police officer.”

Crump, who is currently representing the family of Botham Jean, a Caribbean man killed by a Dallas police officer in his own apartment, said the treatment of Jones by her former employer and police union is the complete opposite of how white officers are treated nationally.

“Certainly racism is a dynamic that we cannot avoid,” Crump said. “The community has to stand up for Nakia if the city leadership won’t, if the police union won’t. It’s people who are moral, people who are good, people who care about values and humanity, we are calling upon them to stand up for Nakia Joneses of the world, the people who use their influence and obligation. To have a police officer speak up about the wrongdoing of a police officer is very important in America.

Crump and his former law partner Daryl Parks, have garnered a national reputation for taking on high-profile cases involving profiling and use of force against black people by police officers and others. He was part of a team of attorneys who briefly represented the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot and killed by Cleveland police officer in November 2014.

Crump has not formally joined Jones’ lawsuit as of Thursday, according to court records.

Jones and her attorneys are asking for Warrensville Heights police reinstate her as a patrol officer and her pension, and any damages she’s endured since her firing.

To comment on this story, visit Thursday’s crime and courts comments page.

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