Mr. Peterson’s testimony, coupled with Officer Bittinger’s testimony that Mr. Peterson was “very nervous and agitated and seemed like he may have been a bit frightened” was sufficient to demonstrate that Mr. Peterson feared Mr. Coleman was going to cause him serious physical harm. Thus, Mr. Coleman’s conviction was supported by sufficient evidence.
State v. Coleman
2022 – Ohio – 4029
First District Appellate Court
Hamilton County, Ohio
November 14, 2022
On Wednesday September 15, 2021, Mr. Tisaan Coleman was charged with Aggravated Menacing under O.R.C. §2903.21 for threatening his neighbor with a firearm. On September 30, 2021, a bench trial was held. At trial, Mr. Demetrius Peterson, Mr. Coleman’s neighbor, testified that he had been sitting outside of his apartment building with his daughter and her boyfriend. Mr. Peterson continued to sit outside for a few minutes after his daughter and her boyfriend went inside to get ready for work. He testified that when he went back inside the building, he saw Mr. Coleman standing in front of his daughter and her boyfriend pointing a gun at them. Mr. Peterson testified that, at this point, he walked up the stairs to his apartment on the third floor to call the police. Then, Mr. Coleman, “ran behind [him] up the steps” and while pointing a gun at him said, “no motherfucker, you can get some too.” Mr. Peterson then went inside his apartment and called the police. Mr. Peterson testified that Mr. Coleman’s sister came into the building after the incident had occurred to “get [Mr. Coleman] and take him away.”
Cincinnati Police Officer Bittinger testified that Mr. Peterson was “very nervous and agitated and seemed like he may have been a bit frightened,” when police arrived. Officer Bittinger testified that Mr. Peterson recounted to him that Mr. Coleman said, “I’ll shoot you.” Officer Bittinger testified that he knocked on Mr. Coleman’s door, but there was no answer. Mr. Coleman’s apartment was not searched, and a firearm was not found.
Mr. Coleman testified in his own defense, and stated that he has Asperger’s syndrome, and often has difficulty communicating with others. Mr. Coleman testified that on the day of the incident, he left his apartment to walk his dog and check his mail. On his way back to into the building, Mr. Coleman walked past Mr. Peterson and then, once inside, “said some short words” to Mr. Peterson’s daughter’s boyfriend as they passed on the stairs “about some taunts that w[ere] made a week earlier” during an apartment building inspection. Specifically, Mr. Coleman testified that “I asked him if he said something about me. He said he didn’t. I walked up the steps.” Mr. Coleman elaborated, “I asked him if he had something – I asked him what he had against me. I don’t know. I guess from what another person told me … I’m a topic of conversation, and I asked why. Other than that, it was cool. We went past each other.” Mr. Coleman denied threatening anyone with a gun, testifying, “I don’t carry guns. I don’t do things like that. It’s not me. I don’t like to be there. I have a really hard time being loud. It’s stressful.” Mr. Coleman testified that although he “heard somebody,” he was not sure if the police officer knocked on his door because he was in his bedroom watching television.
Mr. Coleman’s sister, Kai Coleman, testified for the defense. She testified that she was in Mr. Coleman’s apartment that day and sat by his open door while he went to check his mail. She denied hearing any interaction between her brother and anyone else in the hallway. Kai testified that she had never seen Mr. Coleman interact with Mr. Peterson before, and that she had never seen Mr. Coleman with a gun. Kai testified that she did not answer the door when the police officer knocked because she was in the bathroom.
A long-time neighbor and former building maintenance manager, Mr. Randy Stoughton, also testified for the defense. He stated that he often hears arguments in the building’s hallways, but that he did not recall hearing an argument or any threats on the day of the incident, though he added it is often difficult for him to hear over the noise of his television. Stoughton testified that he had never seen Mr. Coleman with a gun.
After hearing this testimony, the court found Mr. Coleman guilty as charged. Mr. Coleman was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with credit for 34 days already served. Mr. Coleman timely appealed, and the court granted a motion to stay the sentence pending the appeal.
In Mr. Coleman’s first assignment of error, he contends that his conviction was based on insufficient evidence and runs counter to the manifest weight of the evidence.
Mr. Coleman was convicted of aggravated menacing under O.R.C. §2903.21(A), which provides: “[n]o person shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause serious physical harm to the person or property of the other person.” A person acts knowingly “when the person is aware that the person’s conduct will probably cause a certain result or will probably be of a certain nature.” O.R.C. §2901.22(B). As relevant here, serious physical harm to persons includes physical harm that “carries a substantial risk of death,” or involves some incapacity, disfigurement, or acute pain. O.R.C. §2901.01(A)(5)(b) – (e).
If believed, Mr. Peterson’s testimony established that Mr. Coleman threatened multiple individuals in his apartment building with a firearm, and followed Mr. Peterson to his unit, before pointing a firearm at him and delivering a verbal threat. Mr. Peterson testified that after Mr. Coleman threatened him with a gun, he immediately went into his apartment and called 911. He stated, “[W]e stay next door. I can’t even walk out the door. I wouldn’t feel safe walking out that door.” Mr. Peterson’s testimony, coupled with Officer Bittinger’s testimony that Mr. Peterson was “very nervous and agitated and seemed like he may have been a bit frightened” was sufficient to demonstrate that Mr. Peterson feared Mr. Coleman was going to cause him serious physical harm. Thus, Mr. Coleman’s conviction was supported by sufficient evidence. See, In re Shad,2009 – Ohio – 3611, (holding conviction for aggravated menacing was based on sufficient evidence where the victim testified that the defendant pointed a gun at him, and the victim was afraid he would be shot).
Information for this article was obtained from State v. Coleman, 2022 – Ohio – 4029.
This case was issued by the First District Appellate Court, therefore this case is only binding in Hamilton County, Ohio.
- Aggravated Menacing, O.R.C. §2903.21(A), states: “[N]o person shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause serious physical harm to the person or property of the other person.”. In this case there was conflicting testimony between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Peterson. The trial court believed the veracity of Mr. Peterson’s testimony over Mr. Coleman’s. Consequently, I will contrast Mr. Peterson’s testimony to O.R.C. §2903.21(A). Peterson testified in pertinent part, “ran behind [Mr. Peterson] up the steps” and while pointing a gun at him said, “no motherfucker, you can get some too.”. This testimony coupled with Officer Bittinger’s testimony that Mr. Peterson was “very nervous and agitated and seemed like he may have been a bit frightened” was sufficient to demonstrate that Mr. Peterson feared Mr. Coleman was going to cause him serious physical harm.
- Note that the court utilized the officer’s testimony to support and eventually tip the legal scale in the direction upholding the conviction. Also instructive is that Mr. Coleman did not answer the door when the officer knocked. In the moment this uncooperative behavior may seem benign, but proper articulation by law enforcement is critically important. The Coleman’s uncooperative behavior was another key factor in upholding the conviction.
- Officer Bittinger’s investigation and most especially his articulation should be commended. Well done Officer Bittinger!
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