A traffic stop involving the Ohio Highway Patrol and a Canton police canine is being investigated for use of force after a driver refused repeated requests for a driver's license or other identifying information.
CANTON What could have been a routine traffic stop ended with the driver hospitalized with arm injuries from a police dog unleashed when he refused to exit his car or provide his full name or identification.
Ronald D. Wagner II, who was taken into custody Sunday, captured the incident on video and posted it on his Facebook account.
It shows an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper and then three Canton police officers calmly and repeatedly asking the 45-year-old Perry Township man to provide identifying information and vehicle registration. The trooper had pulled Wagner over because the vehicle he was driving had only a homemade license plate on the back.
The encounter lasted more than 20 minutes before police eventually lost their patience amid Wagner's contentions that it was an unlawful stop and that a driver's license and plate aren't required for him to drive.
"I'm just traveling as a man right now," Wagner told the trooper calmly before adding that he wouldn't answer questions.
"I'm just saying that I'm not here to make it a bad day or anything like that," the trooper said in the video. "(If you) don't provide me (with) things that I ask for so I can conduct my business, it can turn into a bad day, you know what I'm saying?"
The trooper said he only needed Wagner to provide a driver's license or Social Security number.
"It's OK if you don't have it," the trooper said. "I'm not going to ask you to get out of the car." Wagner wouldn't provide the information, debating Ohio law with the trooper before asking for his name and badge number.
Law enforcement eventually broke the windows on the car and released the police dog. At least one officer can be heard asking Wagner not to resist, followed by Wagner screaming. Wagner's video recording didn't capture footage of the apprehension but body cameras worn by police provide better vantage points of the action.
Because force was used to apprehend Wagner, the Police Department's internal affairs division and training bureau will investigate the traffic stop, said Capt. David Kurzinsky, who was serving as acting police chief Tuesday. Police Chief Bruce Lawver recently announced his retirement and Capt. Dave Davis, who was named acting chief, was off work Tuesday.
"All use of force is reviewed and this particular case will be reviewed," said Kurzinsky, who declined further comment, citing the pending investigation.
'A commercial term'
Wagner, interviewed by phone Tuesday afternoon from his hospital room at Mercy Medical Center, said he was scheduled to undergo a second surgery on his arm later that day. He was stopped between 5 and 6 p.m. Sunday on a side road in the area of Kennedy's Bar-B-Que near Monument Park, Wagner said.
He contends a driver's license is not required "unless (you are) getting paid to drive (such as) hauling people around and to carry goods."
"Driver's license is a commercial term," he added. "Driver is a commercial term. We've all been duped into thinking that we have to have these driver's licenses."
Police at the scene can be heard telling him that not providing the information sought "is actually a crime."
"Refusing to provide your information to a law enforcement officer conducting an investigation, it's a misdemeanor four. Means it's arrestable and you can be taken to the Stark County Jail for that."
Asked why he didn't provide identifying information to the trooper and officers, Wagner said, "I was being peaceful ... and I wasn't acting irate. I was just firmly standing up for my Fourth Amendment right and my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent."
Wagner said he put adhesive letters and numbers on the back of the vehicle, UCC 1-308.
Wagner said the UCC stands for "United Commercial Code." Also marked on the back of the vehicle in stickers was "non commercial and not for hire," said Wagner, who only provided his first name to law enforcement during the traffic stop.
Wagner has a 2018 case in Canton Municipal Court accusing him of driving without a valid license and failure to display a license plate. Wagner said he's contested that case. Court records indicate that Wagner failed to show up for a trial on those charges last month.
City Law Director Kristen Bates Aylward said that law enforcement believed Wagner had a concealed carry (CCW) permit and could have been armed. Canton police were called to assist the trooper, she said.
"There's a little bit of heightened concern when you have an uncooperative person who you believe has a CCW permit and therefore could have a gun," Bates Aylward said.
"Mr. Wagner ... didn't have an actual license plate on the back but had written in like a number so they ran that number and that number came back to a person that was named Gary who was a CCW holder ... but it turned out it wasn't (Wagner) but they believed they could have a CCW holder in the vehicle," Bates Aylward said.
The encounter is being reviewed "just to make sure exactly what happened," she said.
During the stop, Wagner told law enforcement he wasn't armed.
Police dog used
When Wagner refused to cooperate, the canine officer became loud and said, "As much as I'm a man and I'm standing here alive today, this is what's going to happen. We are going to break that window. ... I'm going to send this 100 pound (dog) and he's going to apprehend you at which time I'm going to drag him and you (out) to the ground (if you continue to resist)."
Responded Wagner: "You're going to sic a dog on a lawful man who's being peaceful?"
Leo Shirkey, commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol's Canton post, referred questions to the patrol's public affairs office in Columbus. A message was left with the office Tuesday afternoon.
Wagner said he's been charged or cited by the trooper but didn't know the specific violations. "I definitely plan on holding them accountable and there will be a lawsuit," said Wagner.
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