Put-in-Bay police chief on leave, 2 officers resign after violent arrests of African American visitors

Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 3:53 PM EDT
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Put-in-Bay police pulled over an overcapacity golf cart Saturday night and a scuffle ensued resulting in nine arrests, eight of who are African American.

“It’s as serious as it comes,” said Put-in-Bay mayor Jessica Dress. “Without taking away from the seriousness of it, I consider the community lucky that it didn’t become any more serious.”

The officers said they perceived a threat by the group and a woman rider trying to hide a substance. Police escalated the situation.

“Hindsight it twenty-twenty,” said Dress. “But from an outside perspective, it seems it could have been handled much better.”

The mayor said the island is adjusting to a more diverse visitor population and said the force has come under criticism of handling of events in the past, she says because of its inexperience.

She also said the officers’ description of the events differ from the body cam video.

“That’s why we’ve taken the step we’ve taken,” she said. “I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction.”

Ottawa County Prosecutor James VanEerton dropped all charges against the nine visitors.

The mayor placed Put-in-Bay police Chief Steve Riddle on paid administrative leave and two officers involved have resigned--Lt. Michael Russo, who made the stop, and Sgt. Melissa Wilde, one of the officers who arrived as backup.

The mayor said the investigation is ongoing and it’s unclear as to whether anyone on the force will face changes.

The village has a Safe Island Task Force meeting Monday night.

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