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Video circulating on social media alleges police misconduct by OPD

Multiple people restrain Miami University football player Devin Johnson outside Brick Street Bar on Nov. 18.
Multiple people restrain Miami University football player Devin Johnson outside Brick Street Bar on Nov. 18.

Content warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence.

The hashtag #justicefordevin is sparking the attention of Miami University students and Oxford residents after a video of police officers physically restraining a university football player circulated the internet.

The video was originally posted on Dec. 23 on TikTok by the account @femmeslibre. In the video, the woman claims she is cousins with the father of Devin Johnson, a Miami first-year football player.

In the video, the woman states that Johnson went out with a couple of friends to Brick Street Bar. He left the bar, and when he tried to reenter, she claims the bouncer attacked Johnson, wrestling him to the ground on the sidewalk of North Poplar Street.

The incident happened the weekend after the football team's win against the University at Buffalo, which secured their ticket to the MAC Championship. Johnson, a 20-year-old, is a redshirt first-year from Berea, Ohio.

Night at Brick leads to four criminal charges

According to police reports, officers responded to a call just after 1 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, about a “combative male” at Brick Street Bar. Court records filed on Nov. 18 confirm that Johnson is charged with criminal trespassing, underage possession, resisting arrest and assault.

The criminal charges allege that around 1:22 a.m., Johnson entered Brick Street through a side access door “against the wishes of bar staff” and refused to leave after being told to by employees. The citation for assault states that Johnson “pushed multiple bar employees, placed one in a headlock and struck an employee in the face, causing a bloody lip.”

After police arrived on the scene, according to the citations issued by the Oxford Police Department (OPD), Johnson “refused to comply with orders to give his hands to officers and continued to pull away when handcuffing him.” The underage possession charge came after Johnson was arrested, when the citation alleges that the responding officers noted “a strong odor of alcoholic beverages coming from [Johnson’s] person,” in addition to Johnson’s apparently “glassy, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.”

However, the woman who posted security footage on social media alleges that the incident is an example of police brutality. The Miami Student has reached out to the owner of the account for comment.

What the security footage shows

The security footage begins just before 1:22 a.m. on Nov. 18 and shows the North Poplar Street sidewalk next to Brick Street.

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A few seconds into the video, Johnson and another male enter the frame at the top right. The pair struggles as they move north along the sidewalk, and the other male, who the social media poster identifies as a bouncer, has both arms around Johnson. As the pair turns, Johnson appears to have his arm around the other male’s neck.

Several other college-aged people are on the sidewalk in the video. Some walk past the scene, while others stand out of the way.

As Johnson and the apparent bouncer move along the sidewalk, three more people join in and attempt to pull Johnson to the ground. He falls into a patch of grass next to the bar, and two of the other people stand up. The remaining two males hold Johnson down. One has “STAFF” written on the back of his shirt.

A fifth man then stands over them and claps. Johnson reaches up, and the person with “STAFF” on his shirt grabs Johnson’s arm to hold him down. A third person approaches again and grabs Johnson’s arm, as well. At the same time, the man who was clapping takes a few steps away with his hands up and walks out of frame toward High Street.

A different man runs from the direction of High Street with a flashlight, bending over Johnson. The man looks toward High Street as a police officer also runs from that direction. As the officer approaches the scene, the man with the flashlight leaves.

The officer puts both hands on Johnson as two men, holding his arms and feet, stand up. A third man continues to hold on to Johnson. Johnson appears to try to sit up, and the officer pushes him back down with a hand on his face, twisting Johnson’s body so that he is lying on his stomach.

The other man holding Johnson down shifts to Johnson’s legs while a second person comes back to hold his other leg. The man previously holding the flashlight returns and appears to hold Johnson’s shoulders.

The officer then punches Johnson three times in the head or neck. The view is partially obscured by the man at Johnson’s shoulders.

After the officer punches Johnson, two men continue to hold Johnson’s legs while a third holds his arms, stretched behind his head. The officer kneels next to Johnson and appears to lean his weight onto Johnson’s torso while grabbing Johnson’s hair.

An OPD vehicle arrives, and a second officer grabs Johnson’s neck while the man with the flashlight stands up. A third officer arrives from the direction of High Street. Johnson then appears to lift his head and torso before the first officer stands up slightly and knees Johnson twice in his side.

The two officers reposition their hold on him while two other men hold his feet. One of the men holding his feet stands while the officers place handcuffs on Johnson.

The video clip ends with three officers hovering over Johnson and a fourth officer arriving at the scene. The two men who were holding his feet stand and a group of bystanders huddle behind them on North Poplar Street. 

Trial set for February, but no lawsuit

According to court filings, Johnson’s criminal charges will be decided in a trial by jury on Feb. 28, 2024, with a pretrial hearing on Jan. 25. No lawsuits have yet been filed against OPD or the individual officers involved.

Ryan Agee, a lawyer representing Johnson, said in a statement to The Miami Student that he and the family are actively fighting against the criminal charges.

“The video circulating involving my client, Devin Johnson, is deeply disturbing. Devin and his family are currently processing this difficult situation while we actively work to fight the criminal charges against him," Agee wrote. “We are committed to ensuring a fair legal process for Devin. We ask for the public’s understanding and respect for the privacy of Devin and his family during this challenging time."

The Miami Student reached out to OPD’s Chief of Police John Jones and Lieutenant Lara Fening for comment, but both were unavailable due to vacations.

In a Facebook post on Dec. 24, OPD stated that the security footage was not included in the department’s initial review of the incident. The department stated that it would investigate the use of force by the officer and review its policies.

“We understand this video can be disturbing and shocking and we are committed to conducting a transparent investigation,” the post read. “There is misinformation being shared on social media regarding this incident. Thank you for your patience while we conduct a thorough review of this incident.”

Each year, Oxford’s Police Community Relations and Review Commission (PCRRC) reports data related to arrests and use of force. According to a May 18 presentation to the PCRRC, the police department recorded 10 use of force reports in 2022, one from a Black man, and 14 display of force reports, three from Black men.

In 2021, three out of nine use of force incidents involved Black men, along with one out of eight displays of force. The 2023 PCRRC presentation lists just two formal citizen complaints against police officers in 2022. No numbers are yet available for 2023.

This is a developing story, the Miami Student will update its website as more information becomes available.