We find that, if believed, this evidence—that Hendricks swung and hit Officer Eckel in the face as Eckel fell on top of him, breaking Eckel’s nose and necessitating surgery—was sufficient to support the trial court’s conclusion that Hendricks knowingly caused serious physical harm to Officer Eckel. Additionally, his conduct in swinging at Officer Schwirzinski also demonstrates the culpable mental state required to convict Hendricks of assault.
State v. Hendricks
2020 – Ohio – 5218
Sixth District Appellate Court
On Friday October 5, 2018, at approximately 1:50 a.m., Toledo Police Officer Richard Eckel and Officer Paul Schwirzinski were dispatched to a home on Warsaw Street after the occupants of the home reported an unwanted person on the property. The officers, dressed in full police uniform and driving a marked police car, arrived to find Mr. Kron Hendricks sitting on the porch.
According to Officer Eckel, Mr. Hendricks appeared to be intoxicated, he had trouble standing up, his speech was slurred, he appeared bewildered, and he had to hold onto the house to balance himself. Officer Schwirzinski was “pretty sure” Mr. Hendricks was not drunk because he did not smell of alcohol, but it seemed to Officer Schwirzinski that Mr. Hendricks was not completely aware of what was going on and that he was under the influence of something.
The officers handcuffed Mr. Hendricks so they could transport him to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center “to sleep it off.” Mr. Hendricks was not under arrest at this time, but it is Toledo Police Department policy to place a person in handcuffs before transporting him in a police vehicle.
Mr. Hendricks was silent during the drive to the hospital, except to say that he was cold. When they got to St. Vincent, the officers removed Mr. Hendricks’s handcuffs and escorted him inside. As they walked with him, he was so unsteady on his feet that Officer Eckel had to hold onto his back. They approached the check-in counter at the hospital.
Mr. Hendricks rested his elbows on the counter and was swaying back and forth like he was going to fall over. Officer Eckel kept a hand on his back the whole time so that he would not fall. As they continued to stand at the counter, Mr. Hendricks began looking around, then pushed back into Officer Eckel who told him to stop and just stand there. But Mr. Hendricks looked around and pushed back again; Officer Schwirzinski believed Mr. Hendricks threw an elbow back towards Officer Eckel. Mr. Hendricks then started punching at the officers.
Officer Schwirzinski got Mr. Hendricks into a bear hug and almost restrained him, but Mr. Hendricks broke out of it and continued to punch at them. Officer Eckel punched Mr. Hendricks in the face to knock him down so they could gain control of him. Mr. Hendricks fell to the ground and Officer Eckel fell on top of him. As Officer Eckel put his hands out to catch himself, Mr. Hendricks punched him in the nose.
Officer Schwirzinski got down on the floor too, and when he did, he noticed blood dripping out of Officer Eckel’s nose. Officer Eckel’s nose was broken; he required surgery to reset it. The injury continues to cause him pain and discomfort and he experiences a tingling feeling on the left side of his nose.
On October 15, 2018, Mr. Hendricks was indicted on charges of felonious assault, a violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(1) and (D), a first-degree felony (Count 1), and assault, a violation of R.C. 2903.13(A) and (C)(5), a fourth-degree felony (Count 2). Count 1 was premised on his assault of Officer Eckel, and Count 2 was premised on his assault of Officer Schwirzinski.
Mr. Hendricks was convicted on all counts and appealed his conviction to the Sixth District Appellate Court which held “We find that, if believed, this evidence—that Hendricks swung and hit Officer Eckel in the face as Eckel fell on top of him, breaking Eckel’s nose and necessitating surgery—was sufficient to support the trial court’s conclusion that Hendricks knowingly caused serious physical harm to Officer Eckel. Additionally, his conduct in swinging at Officer Schwirzinski also demonstrates the culpable mental state required to convict Hendricks of assault.”.
Mr. Hendricks was sentenced to four years in prison and that sentence was also upheld.
Information for this article was obtained from State v. Hendricks, 2020 – Ohio – 5218. The Sixth District Appellate Court issued this decision on October 23, 2020. This decision is binding on all Sixth District counties: Erie, Fulton, Huron, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams and Wood. For the rest of the state this case is considered persuasive. Though law enforcement agencies in other counties do not have to follow the decision it is considered instructive.
- Hendrick’s appeal focused on his significant level of intoxication that inhibited his ability to knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm. However, O.R.C. § 2901.21(E), “[V]oluntary intoxication may not be taken into consideration in determining the existence of a mental state that is an element of a criminal offense.”. Mr. Hendrick’s defense based on his inability to ‘know’ he was violently assaulting law enforcement officers, though legally sound, practically is illogical. If he was too impaired how would he be physically capable of being violent?
- This type of call for service – caring for an impaired person – falls under the Community Caretaking Doctrine. Up and until the physical assault the officers were simply trying to care for this convicted felon but instead of complying, Mr. Hendricks violently responded. If Mr. Hendricks had simply complied with being medically checked he would not spend four years in prison. Recidivists often do not comply which often leads to this predictable result.
- The officers did everything they should have done but still were in a violent struggle and both were injured, one with a broken nose. All officers should react as quick and professionally as Officer Richard Eckel and Officer Paul Schwirzinski, as they were physically and mentally prepared for the violent encounter. Law enforcement is THE hardest job in America and Officer Richard Eckel and Officer Paul Schwirzinski encounter with Mr. Hendricks underscores how hard the job is EVERY each shift.
Does your agency train on the Community Caretaking Doctrine?
Don’t fail your training.
Don’t let your training fail you!
Be safe, smart and objectively reasonable!
Robert H. Meader Esq.