COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Police altered facts and suppressed and destroyed evidence to pursue their road rage investigation against a former Ohio State football star accused of shooting a pickup truck driver in the head, the ex-player alleged in a federal lawsuit Thursday that says he was defending himself against an aggressive driver at every turn.
The lawsuit by Jim Stillwagon, a former Ohio State captain and member of the 1968 national championship team, followed his acquittal last fall on all charges stemming from the September 2012 incident in Delaware in central Ohio.
Investigators alleged a truck driver was grazed by a bullet when Stillwagon fired at him. Stillwagon had been riding a motorcycle.
Stillwagon, 65, acknowledged firing at the driver three times in fear for his life when the truck began backing up toward him at one point, according to his lawsuit.
Stillwagon said he later fired a fourth shot at a tire on the truck to disable it, then hit the driver in the head with his gun. He said the driver had tried at least six times to attack him during the encounter that investigators say spanned 14 miles.
A Delaware city spokesman declined to comment. A copy of the police report released by the city Thursday quotes witnesses who say they saw Stillwagon shoot at the driver. An investigator concludes in the same report there was nothing “that would definitively confirm or disprove” either version of how the driver received his head wound.
The report also said the driver had a blood-alcohol content of 0.106, which is above the legal limit in Ohio.
The lawsuit says police coaxed the other driver to be a cooperative witness and offered him leniency, and failed to examine evidence, including skid marks, the driver’s claim that mechanical issues in his truck occasionally caused it to stall or surge, and a 911 call made by a witness.
Investigators also didn’t hand over a state report that questioned whether the driver suffered a gunshot wound to the head, according to the lawsuit.
The case went to trial but a judge dismissed all charges before it reached the jury, saying Stillwagon was the only credible participant in the encounter, according to the lawsuit.
Stillwagon, who said the ordeal cost him $400,000 in legal and other fees, is suing to be compensated for his losses and for financial damages against the city and the officers, and for attorney costs.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.
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