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Westland couple, others allege island police used excessive force

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

An Ohio island police department is the focus of two federal lawsuits alleging excessive force incidents this summer, including one involving a Westland couple.

The village of Put-in-Bay, which is on Lake Erie's South Bass Island, and its police officers are the focus of both complaints in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

“These are pretty crazy incidents involving golf carts, white officers, Black citizens and the increased use of force continuum,” said Detroit attorney Ven Johnson, who said both complaints are being reviewed by the FBI. “Neither was serious but guns were drawn and pointed, two people stunned with Tasers and four people handcuffed.”

Put-in-Bay, a village on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, is a popular summertime destination.

The two incidents — one on June 6 and the other on May 24 — have led to the village’s police chief, Steve Riddle, taking an administrative leave and to the resignations of former Lt. Michael Russo and Cpl. Terry Rutledge Jr. The three are named as defendants in both lawsuits.

 Interim Police Chief James Kimball said Tuesday he did not join the department until after the incidents, on June 26.

“I have no comment on these,” Kimball said, referring questions to the village attorney, who could not be reached for comment.

The village’s mayor did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Put-In-Bay is a small island community and Lake Erie tourist destination with about 130 year-round residents and a “party-like atmosphere” Johnson said. The police department numbers five officers in the winter and 30 in the summer, when thousands of visitors, mostly from Ohio, Michigan and Canada, vacation there.

According to the complaints, on May 24, Monica Guilledge and Lyle Taylor, both of Westland, had checked into the Put-In-Bay Hotel Resort. Russo and other officers responded there to a report of sexual assault that had nothing to do with the Michigan couple or their families, according to the complaint.

During the investigation, Russo heard voices and “suddenly and without warning” allegedly assaulted Guilledge from behind and slammed her to the ground, the suit alleges. Lyle, who was with her, was placed in handcuffs by another officer.

Neither received any explanation regarding the actions, which reportedly stemmed from an overturned golf cart driven by one of their friends, who also was not charged with any crimes, according to the suit.

The couple were later released without charges.

On June 6, Russo and Rutledge were writing up a traffic stop of a golf cart when they spotted Ryan Hollingshed driving a different golf cart on Toledo Avenue and pulled him over, the second suit states.

Russo told Hollingshed he had ran a stop sign and had too many passengers on his cart. Carts are supposed to have only four occupants at any time and there were six, Johnson said.

 During the writing of a traffic citation, Russo told Rutledge he had seen someone pass something, believed to be drugs, to one of the passengers, Diamone Wilson, who is Hollingshed’s sister, according to the suit. She was handcuffed and when her brother protested, he was also handcuffed. The siblings and friends are all from the Sandusky, Ohio, area, Johnson said.

During the incident, Russo fell to the ground and when he was back on his feet he pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the group — some then photographing the actions — and “threatened to shoot them” and ordered them “to get back,” the suit alleges

Russo called for police backup and ordered an officer to shoot one of the group with a Taser, and Hollingshed also was stunned three times by a Taser, according to the suit. Johnson said Wilson — who is 5 foot, 1 inches tall and weighs 92 pounds — was handcuffed for assaulting a police officer after allegedly taking a swing at Russo, which she denies.

All but Hollingshed were held briefly in the police lockup before being released without charges at 3:30 a.m. Hollingshed was made to walk handcuffed and in shackles to a transport boat on the other side of the island, according to the complaint. He was taken before a judge on June 8, told all charges had been dismissed, and was released.

“There were no drugs — there was nothing passed to anyone,” Johnson said. “This resulted from white officers overreacting about some Black suspects. It was 100% race-driven.”

Kimble said the officers involved are no longer employed by Put-in-Bay.

The unrelated lawsuits each allege multiple violations of constitutional rights; physical, mental and emotional injuries; and seek financial damages in excess of $75,000 still to be determined from the officers and the village.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319