While Kareem Hunt was not arrested on the night of his now highly publicized altercation in Cleveland, there was one gentleman who was. Find out why.
A person was arrested at a hotel and luxury apartment building in Cleveland on the night Kareem Hunt was caught on surveillance video assaulting a woman.
But it wasn’t the former Kansas City Chiefs running back.
Instead Derek Szeto, a guest at The Metropolitan at the 9, was put in handcuffs and charged with disorderly conduct after he filmed police officers in the lobby.
Szeto had allowed the woman who was assaulted by Hunt to use his phone to call 911 after an employee at the front desk told her she couldn’t use the phone there.
The actions of Cleveland police that night have drawn renewed scrutiny on the department, as well as questions as to why Hunt was not charged with assault and disrupting public service, both misdemeanors.
“I was scratched right here, I have a wound right here, I have a wound right here” the woman told officers as she pointed to parts of her body in bodycam footage released by the Cleveland Police Department. “He plays in the NFL. He’s an abusive person.”
The bodycam footage showed that an officer responded that he would “take photos or whatever you want to do,” although Cleveland Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Ciaccia told USA TODAY Sports nobody within the agency viewed the footage from the night of Feb. 10 before it was published by TMZ last week.
“Watching the surveillance footage would be the easiest thing in the world for them to do,” former Cuyahoga County prosecutor Dan Margolis told USA TODAY Sports. “In the footage that I’ve seen, the police were a lot more engaged with the (friends of Hunt’s) than they were interviewing (the victim). There’s a backstory here when it comes to women who are victims of crime not being taken seriously by Cleveland police.”
Hunt was not arrested and the City of Cleveland said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports the woman would need to seek charges against Hunt on her own with the city prosecutor. Hunt was released by the Chiefs on Friday, minutes after the NFL announced he was put on the commissioner’s exempt list following publication of the video by TMZ.
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On Wednesday night, the Cleveland Police Department said in a statement it was “conducting an internal investigation regarding the overall response” to the Hunt investigation. Ciaccia previously said its detectives only handle felony cases, so the department hasn’t investigated the incident since the night it occurred.
National Organization for Women president Toni Van Pelt urged the Ohio legislature to address that by making such incidents felonies. The woman, a college student, had just met Hunt that night and, as such, domestic violence charges didn’t apply.
“There’s a big hole when it comes to violence against women,” Van Pelt said. “The laws don’t protect date violence or violence against women outside the home.”
City of Cleveland spokesperson Dan Williams did not return multiple messages left by USA TODAY Sports for this story.
The woman had not sought charges as of Wednesday, although Margolis said it’s within the purview of the city prosecutor — led by Department of Law Director Barbara A. Langhenry — to take action against Hunt.
“It’s certainly possible Hunt could be charged without the victim’s cooperation,” Margolis said. “I don’t know what efforts have been made to secure the testimony of the victim. There’s already probable cause to charge him. The case could proceed and they could subpoena the victim to testify.”
Messages left with Langhenry by USA TODAY Sports were not returned.
Szeto doesn’t understand why he was arrested and charged after being what he thought was a good Samaritan.
He pulled up to the building in an Uber and found the woman whom he did not know frantically asking to borrow his phone to call 911.
As police officers arrived and interviewed the woman and Hunt’s friends, Szeto started to take video of the scene on his phone.
“”Is there any way we can have him delete that footage?” a hotel security officer told police in a conversation caught on bodycam. “He did not have permission whatsoever.”
Officers asked Szeto, 29, for his iPhone.
“You have to have their permission,” an officer told Szeto, according to the bodycam footage. “May I see your phone? I am asking you nicely. … Let me see your phone”
Szeto responded: “I did nothing wrong. I am not going to relinquish my phone unless you have a warrant. You can arrest me, but you are not taking my property. I know my rights.”
The officer placed Szeto in handcuffs and put him in a squad car.
“A woman gets beat up, I call police and I’m the one gets arrested,” Szeto told police before he signed the citation and was released from custody.
Nearly half of the 3½ hours of video footage released by the Cleveland police from that night dealt with Szeto’s arrest.
“I feel vindicated this came out,” Szeto told USA TODAY Sports. “I hope people are held accountable.”
Szeto, who is from Massachusetts, pleaded out to the misdemeanor arrest and paid a $182 fine.
“It was both emotional and disheartening,” Szeto said. “I didn’t have the time or money to fly back and fight this. I’m a prideful person. I didn’t want to have anything on my record. I wanted to fight what the cops did to me that night. I struggled for weeks with what to do before I ended up pleading to it.”
ACLU spokesperson Jocelyn Rosnick said in an email to USA TODAY Sports: “Confiscating an individual’s phone simply because they were in the vicinity of an alleged crime or recording the area, raises serious privacy concerns, and these types of cases are actively moving through the courts.”
This is not the first time Cleveland’s police tactics have been criticized.
The department entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice in 2015 after the federal agency initiated an excessive force investigation. Part of that agreement called for “bias-free training” of patrol officers, detectives and supervisors.
Prior to that, Cleveland police did not heed witness reports in two high-profile cases: the 2009 arrest of Anthony Sowell as authorities found 11 dead women decomposing in his home, and the three women missing for years found in the home of Ariel Castro in 2013.
Margolis said the actions by police at the hotel the night of the incident indicate more work needs to be done to ensure officers take witness and victim statements more seriously.
“There’s been a lot of hand wringing by police over the years,” Margolis said. “They have new procedures that are supposed to address gender bias in crimes. … It’s part of systematic problem in Cleveland. They have yet to clearly and effectively address gender bias.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ A.J. Perez on Twitter @byajperez.