Shaker Heights Fires Officer Who Made Obscene Gesture At Protesters

A police caravan including Shaker Heights police rounds a corner just past demonstrators ahead of the presidential debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29.
A police caravan including Shaker Heights officers rounds a corner just past demonstrators ahead of the presidential debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29. [Jenny Hamel / ideastream]
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Updated: 5:25 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020

The Shaker Heights police officer who made an obscene gesture at demonstrators outside the presidential debate in Cleveland last month has been fired.

In a letter sent Thursday, Shaker Heights Police Chief Jeff DeMuth informed Cpl. Michael Spuzzillo of the decision to terminate.

According to DeMuth’s letter, Spuzzillo broke 11 of the department’s rules and standards when he flashed a middle finger at demonstrators while driving an unmarked police van outside the Sept. 29 debate site.

During the internal investigation, Spizzullo explained that he “momentarily lost it” when he made the obscene gesture.

Spizzullo was a Shaker officer for 18 years of his 24 years in law enforcement. According to an attorney for the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, he was less than a year from retiring with a full pension.

“He said he is remorseful,” said Dominic Saturday, the OPBA attorney handling Spizzullo’s case. “He understands he may have caused the chief and some other folks some grief.”

The chief said in his letter the act was “so provocative it could have caused a riot.”

“As a Shaker Heights police officer for over 18 years, you should be keenly aware of the culture of the community you serve and that many citizens are allies to the Black Lives Matter movement,” wrote DeMuth. “Your actions prove that, at the very least, you are indifferent to those concerns.”

Saturday said the union has already appealed the decision.

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