A local Air Force veteran faces a trial later this year on charges of harming a police officer, attempting to take that officer’s weapon and resisting arrest, but a petition by a family member says the veteran suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the incident could have been defused.
Clayton resident Dwain Stanford pled not guilty in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court to three felony counts and a misdemeanor charge in October 2020; his case is set for a final pretrial conference in August, with a trial scheduled for Aug. 30.
Indictments alleged that Stanford knowingly caused serious physical harm to Clayton Police Officer Matthew Deskin in the encounter that led to his arrest last September.
He was indicted on first-degree felony charges of aggravated robbery and felonious assault against a police officer, a fourth-degree felony assault charge and a first-degree misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.
A spokesman for the Montgomery County prosecutor’s office said Clayton officers responded to a 911 hang-up call on the day of Stanford’s arrest. “The defendant, naked on the lawn of the residence, punched one of the responding officers and a struggle ensued,” said the spokesman, Greg Flannagan. “The defendant attempted to wrestle away one officer’s firearm.”
“Eventually, the officers were able to gain control of the defendant, but one of the officers required stitches and was diagnosed with a concussion,” he added.
A change.org petition on Stanford’s behalf says that the 51-year-old Black retired Air Force veteran suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
On September 25 last year, Stanford was in his yard “suffering from a combination of PTSD and psychosis episode when a neighbor called 911 to report him for ‘yelling profanities,'” according to the online petition.
“When the Clayton officer arrived, Mr. Stanford was unclothed in a psychotic mental state and punched the officer,” the petition says. “During the incident, a neighbor shielded him and demanded the police officer put away his gun. Mr. Stanford was tased twice, handcuffed, a spit-hood placed over his head and he was detained in the police car.”
The petition argues that Stanford, a father of nine children, has no criminal history.
“He did not know the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the offenses charged, given a mental state acutely altered by an episode of mania-derived psychosis,” the petition says, citing what it said was a court-appointed forensic evaluation.
Jayden Stanford, Dwain Stanford’s son, started the change.org petition. His sister had started a GoFundMe account for him, but it was shut down, the older Stanford said.
The petition attempts to bring attention to Stanford’s case, and as of Monday morning, it had more than 2,010 signatures.
“It makes me feel great,” Stanford said in an interview. “It gives me hope that someone would look at the situation and get behind me, that maybe the charges will be dropped and I can get on with my life.”
Stanford retired from active-duty Air Force service, and in July last year, he retired from a civilian position with the Department of the Air Force, for what he said were mental health issues.
He said he does not recall what happened on the day of his arrest. He is getting treatment and therapy, he also said.
“I would really like to apologize to the individual who was involved,” he also said, referring to the Clayton police officer with whom he is accused of struggling in his yard prior to his arrest. “I’m very sorry that person had to experience what they experienced. I definitely know how it is, to be in a situation where you’re in uniform and something unexpected happens. So my heart goes out to that individual and his family.”
Clayton Police Chief Matthew Hamlin declined to comment, citing the upcoming trial.
Since September, the case has seen orders for evaluations of Stanford’s mental state.
“There is a question as to the defendant’s sanity at the time of the alleged offense; that is, whether the defendant, at the time of the offense charged, did not know, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, the wrongfulness of his actions,” Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Wiseman wrote in a February order.
An examination was performed by Forensic Psychiatry Center for Western Ohio, with a written report submitted in December, Wiseman noted, and a second examination was later performed. Wiseman sought a third examination in February.
“If the examiner reports that the defendant was insane at the time of the offense, examiner shall state a recommendation as to the least restrictive commitment alternative, consistent with the defendant’s needs and with the safety of the community,” the judge wrote then. “In weighing these factors, preference shall be given to protecting public safety.”
Flannagan declined to discuss the findings of the examinations.
“He served in the Air Force for 30 years, served our country and respected the laws of our country; he has been a law-abiding citizen his whole life,” Jon Paul Rion, Stanford’s attorney, said last week. “Frankly, we’re confused that the police and the government don’t recognize and refuse to recognize his great contributions.”
There will be two issues at trial, Rion said: One will be the way a responding police officer “handled the matter” and another will be the analysis of why Stanford “was acting the way he did.”
“Instead of defusing (the situation), he (the responding police officer) caused it to escalate,” Rion said.
As to Stanford’s behavior that day, “We believe the answer to that question will go back to his years of military service and the sacrifices he made as a veteran,” Rion said.
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