Nelsonville police criticized after Black student accused of stealing his own bike

The Nelsonville Police Department faces claims of racial profiling after officers required a Black Hocking College student to prove that he owned his bike.

NELSONVILLE, Ohio — The Nelsonville Police Department faces claims of racial profiling after a video released last week shows officers requiring a Black Hocking College student biking home to prove that he owned the bike he was riding. The September 2022 stop was initiated by an apparently wrongful accusation that the student was riding a stolen bike. 

Bodycam footage from a Nelsonville police officer shows the student, identified as Deontae Ford, stopped on the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. The stop was featured on a recent episode of “Indisputable with Dr. Rashad Richey,” a news talk show affiliated with the progressive network The Young Turks.

Also on the scene is a white person who identifies himself as “Kyle” and accuses Ford of stealing the bike. Though it’s unclear, it seems from the video that Kyle had stopped Ford before officers arrived. 

“Kyle” talking to former Hocking College student Deontae Ford (Nelsonville Police Department via Indisputable with Dr. Rashad Richey / YouTube)

An unidentified NPD officer requests that Ford provide his identification, which he does while on the phone with his grandmother. The video jumps forward in time to the Nelsonville officer talking to Ford’s grandmother, who says Ford bought the bike online. 

At the same time, Kyle tells Ford, “I ain’t got nothing against you. My son’s bike was just stolen out of the yard, you’re coming from the same exact way that the bike was stolen from … so yeah, it made it look a little suspicious, homeboy.”

The officer requests Ford bring up the receipt, which is from Walmart. Once she reviews that, she tells him he’s free to go. Ford’s grandmother tells Kyle that he should apologize. He says, “I am sorry for that,” but qualifies it by again saying that Ford was “just coming in the same direction.” He then apologizes again to Ford’s grandmother.

Ford, identified as a 19-year-old culinary student, reportedly withdrew from Hocking the day after he was stopped, and told “Indisputable” that he believed the stop was racially motivated. A bill provided by his grandmother to the news talk show shows that he paid $7,000 to the school for the fall 2022 semester, which reportedly has not been refunded, despite the family’s requests. The college’s policy states that refunds are provided up to the first day of courses. Hocking College has not responded to a request for comment.

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NPD Interim Chief Devon Tolliver wrote in an email, “All three officers involved in this encounter are no longer employed at the Nelsonville Police Department. The Chief of Police and City Manager at the time of the incident are also no longer employed by the City of Nelsonville.” The names of the officers are Samantha Wiedmer (who was the primary officer), Benjamin Adams and Cody Gilbraith. A LinkedIn profile for Wiedmer shows she’s now working for the Hicksville Police Department in northwest Ohio.

The department has also not yet provided records associated with the stop, but an activity log posted on its Facebook page from that night reads, “Officers responded to Back St for a report of a bicycle theft. The caller called back approximately an hour later and reported that the bike was located and found abandoned on the bike path near Polley field.”

A Facebook account under Ford’s name also did not respond to the Independent’s request for comment.

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