Dispatch: Trooper went too far, Zanesville motorist says

Melody Butts concedes she deserved a ticket for unthinkingly passing a stopped school bus on Rt. 40 east of Zanesville.

However, the nurse says she did not deserve the face full of Mace and night in jail that followed the arrival of a state trooper at her home later that day to write her up for the offense.

"She was treating me like a criminal for a traffic violation,’" Butts said of her May 28 arrest by Trooper Jennifer DeLong. "I don’t have a criminal record. It was very, very demeaning . . . a nightmare.’"

Click on the Read More..." link below for more of the story, and OFCC PAC commentary.

The patrol reported Butts, 30, is being investigated for allegedly resisting arrest, assault and failure to comply with the order of a police officer.

Butts said she was worried about leaving her 4-year-old son, Tavian, alone in the yard near the street and a creek. She admitted refusing DeLong’s order to shut the back door of the patrol car in which she sat at the trooper’s request.

"She was ordering me around like I was a piece of dirt," Butts said. "I didn’t want to do that (shut the door) with my child standing there by himself. She seemed to have no regard for my son."

Butts also admits that she exited the cruiser, stood up and then twisted away from DeLong when the trooper grabbed her wrist.

DeLong then trained her electrically charged Taser gun on Butts as the woman said she stood still with her hands in the air. "She put the Taser away, got out the Mace and said, 'Would you rather have Mace?' She never said I was under arrest."

Butts said she did not follow the trooper’s commands to place her hands on her husband’s parked truck.

"I honestly didn’t want to turn my back on her. I just stood there with my hands up. The next thing I knew, she had Maced me in the face. It burned so bad. It was worse than giving birth. I was miserable."

Joy Ross, one of Butts’ neighbors in the Sycamore Valley mobile home park east of Zanesville, witnessed part of the incident.

"(Butts) had her hands in the air," Ross said. "The cop told her to put her hands on the truck. The next thing I knew, the cop was going over there and grabbing her arm and spraying her in the face with Mace."

A licensed practical nurse at a Zanesville nursing home, Butts worries she could lose her nursing license if convicted of felonious assault on an officer. She says she never struck the trooper.

She cannot fathom why she was doused with Mace over what she views as the simple act of being handed a ticket carrying a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.

Butts was taken to the Muskingum County jail and freed the next morning when prosecutors declined to file charges pending further investigation.

A Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate, Trooper Delong began her career as a trooper assigned to the Statehouse in early 2000. She was fired May 23, 2002, for allegedly sleeping on the job during late-night shifts and then lying about the offense.

An arbitrator later found her firing unjustified — since another trooper caught sleeping at the Statehouse received only a one day suspension — and ordered her reinstated with back pay effective Oct. 23. She then was assigned to the Zanesville post.

DeLong has received two verbal reprimands for failing to qualify with her firearm and a written reprimand for failing four attempts to earn certification to administer blood-alcohol tests. She also has received a one-day suspension for allegedly misusing police computers to obtain personal information.

OFCC PAC Commentary:
There is obviously more to this story than what is told here, and we would not presume to suggest that the facts are known, or that either woman is clearly right or wrong here.

But what IS interesting in this story is the information contained in the final three paragraphs. Trooper DeLong failed to qualify with her firearm on two separate occasions, yet the Fraternal Order of Police has the nerve to suggest that Ohio citizens cannot be trusted with a firearm, unless they get extensive and recurrent training.

Trooper DeLong was once suspended for abusing the police computers to obtain personal information, yet law enforcement groups and anti-self-defense extremists want to force concealed-carry license holders to be listed in the police database, and we're expected to trust that the information will never get into the wrong hands.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendant Paul McClellan says there is no statistical or anecdotal evidence that allowing citizens to carry firearms in their cars will reduce crime or protect the innocent. We have proven that false time and again.

But aside from that debate, one thing IS clear - from Trooper DeLong to Trooper Burd, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that OSHP troopers should not be held on a pedestal above other law-abiding citizens.

Click here to read the entire story in the Columbus Dispatch (subscription site - paid access only).

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