The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to suspend without pay two Detroit cops who are under investigation for their roles in a fatal high-speed chase that ended with the death of a 19-year-old man.
Chief James Craig suspended the officers with pay after the Oct. 9 incident, in which the officers allegedly violated department policy by chasing a vehicle not involved in a violent felony.
The two officers, Stephen Heid and Ron Cadez, also failed to inform dispatchers they were engaged in a high-speed chase, said Craig, who was out of town Thursday.
The police board spent more than an hour in closed session following Thursday’s meeting, then unanimously voted to uphold Craig’s recommendation to suspend the officers without pay.
According to the City Charter, the chief may suspend officers with pay, and the board must approve withholding pay.
“Due to the severity of the circumstances, and the blatant violation of the department’s chase policy, we felt it was appropriate to suspend without pay,” commissioner Willie Bell said following the board’s vote.
Detroit Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz said the officers deserve a fair shake. “They made out a chase report, and they filled out a regular report as well,” he said. “I’m going to defend these officers. They didn’t try to cover anything up.”
Assistant Chief James White said the board’s decision was appropriate.
“The investigation continues, and these officers are entitled to due process, but we feel at this time the board’s action was proper,” White said.
Craig said he suspended Heid and Cadez after reviewing dash-cam footage that showed they initiated the 35-second pursuit without notifying dispatchers, and then drove away after 19-year-old Jerry Bradford slammed his car into a tree. Bradford was pronounced dead at the scene.
Craig said dash-cam footage showed the officers further violated policy by failing to render aid to Bradford or call for medical help after he crashed. Craig said the video shows the officers continued driving, and then circled back to the scene three minutes later, after a citizen phoned 911 to report the collision.
Craig has launched both internal and criminal probes into the incident.
As they sit out their suspensions, Heid and Cadez — who were each awarded a Medal of Honor this year by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police — could be called to testify in the Oct. 23 murder trial of Marquise Cromer, who is accused of killing Detroit police Sgt. Kenneth “Shark” Steil last year.
Heid and Cadez were with Steil when he was shot Sept. 12, 2016. They were hunting Cromer, who allegedly had gone on a spree that included shooting his stepdad and a car wash customer.
As Heid, Cadez, Steil and other officers from the 9th Precinct closed in on Cromer, prosecutors say he opened fire with a shotgun, striking Steil in the shoulder and chest. Steil later died as he was preparing to be released from the hospital.
Cromer’s attorney Sanford Schulman has said Heid and Cadez are on the witness list, although he said he isn’t sure if they’ll be called to testify.
“I’m planning an insanity defense, so the officers aren’t the main focus of our defense,” he said.
Heid and Cadez testified during Cromer’s preliminary examination in May. Cadez said he drove Steil to St. John Hospital after he was shot.
Diaz said Heid and Cadez had no disciplinary history. There are no lawsuits against the officers on file at either Wayne Circuit or U.S. District courts.