A Detroit city bus driver and a college student discuss their lawsuit against two Detroit police officers for their actions at an east-side gas station, and show video shot by the student of the bus driver being roughed up. Todd McInturf, The Detroit News
Southfield – Two men suing the city of Detroit and two police officers for unlawful arrest said Friday that Chief James Craig is misrepresenting a May 31 incident at an east-side gas station and defending “rotten apples” who belong in jail for their actions.
After D’Marco Craft, a 25-year-old college student and Michaele Jackson, a Detroit city bus driver, released a video of the incident to the media, Craig held a news conference Thursday and said a separate gas station surveillance videotape obtained by police shows Jackson “did take a swing at the officer” before being grabbed from behind by the neck and thrown to the ground.
“Craig suggested all kinds of wrongdoing by Jackson … swinging at the officer … as if he brought this upon himself,” said the pair’s attorney, Ari Kresch. “Video don’t lie. People lie and the video we have seen tells the whole story.”
Kresch said he has been denied the store video Craig referenced but doubts it shows anything more than the video Craft taped with his cellphone. Craig declined to release the surveillance footage to reporters this week.
“If that video shows what Craig has said, then I will go on TV and apologize,” said Kresch, whose law firm has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Detroit police officers Richard Billingslea and Hakeem J. Patterson and the city of Detroit seeking damages on behalf of Craft and Jackson.
According to the complaint, about 1:30 a.m. on May 31 the pair went to a gas station on Harper to buy cigarettes and encountered the two officers. The suit says the officers have harassed Craft “many times in the past for no legal reason.”
When Craft saw Billingslea inside the gas station, he turned and left and Billingslea allegedly called out, “You ain’t buying nothing today? Cause I’m here?” and Craft responded “Cause I know how you are…”
The two officers followed Craft out to his car and harassed him and Jackson, “clearly trying to pick a fight,” according to the complaint.
Jackson went towards the store to buy cigarettes and walked past Billingslea, who grabbed him and threw him face-first to the concrete, and Patterson joined the struggle, according to the pair and Kresch.
Meanwhile, Craft was taping the incident on his phone camera, which police pushed away, according to the complaint. At one point, Billingslea allegedly pulled out a can of mace and shook it in a threatening fashion at Craft.
Billingslea later filed an incident report that said he was attempting to place Jackson under arrest but both Jackson and Craft insist they were never told they were under arrest.
Jackson claimed he walked away in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, then returned to the store for cigarettes, followed by Billingslea, who sprayed Jackson in the face with mace and slammed him into a metal rack of Hostess treats.
“He put me in a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) chokehold between the Twinkies and the Ho Hos,” Jackson said Friday. “… It was a nightmare.”
Craft went inside the gas station, still recording the incident with his phone, prompting police to demand his phone and his passcode under threat of arrest.
Craft alleged it appeared police deleted things from the phone and then slammed it on the clerk’s counter, smashing its glass screen before throwing it into a garbage can. Another officer retrieved the phone and held it for evidence, Craft said, adding that it wasn’t returned to him for several days.
“I told them it didn’t matter … it was all preserved (online) on the Cloud,” he said.
Jackson said he was taken to a hospital for treatment of eye, arm and back injuries and then to the 5th Precinct the next day for booking on a felony charge of resisting arrest. A warrant request was denied by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and he was never charged with a crime.
He said he was not released from the lockup until the afternoon of June 2.
Craig said the officer involved in the incident – Billingslea – was assigned to the 5th Precinct Special Operations squad and was put on restricted desk duty shortly after police officials reviewed the incident.
The department’s Professional Standards Bureau and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office are both investigating the incident for possible criminal charges or potential administrative action against the officer.
Jackson and Craft believe the officers belong in jail – Billingslea for alleged assault and being a “loose cannon” who has threatened Craft in the past, and Patterson for allegedly being “an accessory” and not reporting his partner’s wrongdoing.
Craft said he has recorded Billingslea in other acts of unprofessional behavior, like driving past his home and giving him the finger. Craft said he never filed any complaints but “was saving up the tapes for the right time” and has since turned them over to his attorney.
“If he (Craig) wants to engender trust in the community, they have to do some soul-searching and do something,” Kresch said.