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Detective probed over suspect's injury;
Driver was struck by gun during arrestGabriel Baird, Plain Dealer Reporter

Cleveland police have opened a deadly force investigation against one of their own after a detective hit a suspect in the head with the butt of a gun.

It happened during an arrest Saturday at a Burger King on Detroit Avenue. Craig L. Benjamin, 21, of Cleveland, suffered a black eye and a cut while being arrested about 8:40 p.m. He was suspected of drug crimes and prior assaults on two detectives.

Although his injuries were not life-threatening, homicide and Internal Affairs detectives investigate any time police use potentially deadly force, including striking someone in the head with a gun or baton.

Saturday's incident began when police cars surrounded Benjamin and he locked himself in a full-sized van. As police tried to get the 300-pound man out, Detective Juan Mendoza opened the door, reached inside and "accidentally" hit Benjamin with his gun before the suspect slammed the door on his arm, said Lt. Thomas Stacho, a police spokesman.

"Our officers were confronted with a noncompliant, violent male, and they were forced to use force," Stacho said, adding that Benjamin has previous drug- and weapon-related convictions.

Benjamin has not been charged with a crime related to the Burger King incident.

For the department, it is the second investigation of use of deadly force in less than two weeks. On Sept. 1, two detectives killed 15-year-old Brandon McCloud while searching his house for evidence from armed robberies.

Meanwhile, a separate Internal Affairs investigation - of two white patrolmen accused of a racially motivated assault against a black man on Aug. 6 - wrapped up last week. The results, which officials declined to comment on, were given to City Prosecutor Anthony Jordan and the FBI.

After reviewing the case, Jordan could dismiss the case, file charges or ask a grand jury to consider charging the patrolmen.

According to accusations made in a police report, Patrolmen William Forrest, 45, and Pete Turner, 43, who are white, made racial slurs against 32-year-old Aric Jackson, who is black, and started a fight with him for bringing Jamie Cruxton and another white woman into the Castlebar Inn on Lorain Avenue.

Special Agent Scott T. Wilson, FBI spokesman, said the bureau watches cases involving civil rights issues and police, but he declined to comment on the investigation.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: [email protected], 216-999-4141
 
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