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ATF Agent Sues Columbus Police Department, Accusing Officers of Excessive Force

By Steve Neavling

An ATF agent has sued the Columbus Police Department and two of its officers who he says used excessive force against him while he was on a “routine” assignment.

The federal lawsuit alleges the two officers pointed guns at Agent James Burk, tasered him, and placed him in the back of a cruiser on July 7, even though his ATF ID cart was around his neck and his credentials in his pocket, The Columbus Dispatch reports

Burk, a 16-year veteran of the ATF, said he was working in his official capacity when he knocked on the door of a home to seize a gun from someone who was not permitted to possess a firearm.  

A person inside the home called 911 when Burk knocked on the door. The caller refused to answer the door and read Burk’s badge number to the dispatcher, who advised the person to not answer the door while police officers Joseph Fihe and Kevin Winchell were dispatched to the scene. 

“When Fihe arrived at the scene, Agent Burk stood outside the home’s front door and waved the officer over to where he was standing,” the lawsuit states. “Even though Agent Burk had both hands raised and had represented that he is a federal agent, officer Fihe immediately drew his weapon and pointed it … while simultaneously screaming at (Burk) to get on the ground.”

As Burk told the officers his credentials were in his pocket, they pointed their guns at him and “climbed on his back while violently twisting and pulling his arms to handcuff him.”

According to the lawsuit, Burk was not resisting when he was tasered and placed in the back of the police car. 

Burk was released after about an hour.  

“Agent Burk acted lawfully and posed no immediate threat to officers Fihe and Winchell or anyone else,” the lawsuit said. “Agent Burk did not resist the officers, attempt to flee from their custody or display any physical aggressiveness towards them.” 

After suffering physical and psychological injuries, Burk was placed on an administrative role within ATF. 

The police department declined to comment on the case, citing pending litigation. 


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