Detroit — Michigan State Police will investigate an incident in which officers from a multi-jurisdictional task force were captured on video hitting and kicking a carjacking suspect.
State police Lt. Michael Shaw confirmed Tuesday that the agency would conduct the probe. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy had requested state police involvement and indicated she would be "actively monitoring" the investigation, according to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Earlier Tuesday, the Grosse Pointe Park police chief defended how officers handled the arrest. The man was suspected of carjacking a woman and her daughter at gunpoint before leading police on a quarter-mile foot chase.
At least one criminal justice expert, who reviewed the video for The Detroit News, cautioned against rushing to judge whether police use of force was justified. "We only see a fraction of the event," said Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
The Michigan Department of Corrections identified the suspect as Andrew Jackson Jr., 51, a parole absconder, said spokesman Chris Gautz. State records show Jackson was convicted in 2004 of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, assault with intent to rob while armed and fleeing a police officer.
An arrest warrant was approved in April after Jackson missed a meeting with his parole officer and officials learned he was not living at the address Corrections had listed for him, Gautz said. Jackson was being held Tuesday by Grosse Pointe Park police for parole violations, Gautz said. He could get up to 60 months additional time.
The video of the arrest, which appears to have been shot by a woman Monday and posted on Facebook, shows two officers beating the man while apparently trying to handcuff him, and administering more blows after his hands were secured behind his back.
Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Director David Hiller said his initial investigation indicates the officers were justified because he said the suspect was going for his gun.
(Note: The video below contains strong language.)
Early in the nine minute, 30 second video, one officer swings at the man seven times while the other officer delivers two kicks.
"Give me your arm," one officer orders before apparently handcuffing the man. The officer then rears back and delivers another blow.
At one point, the suspect calls upon Jesus.
"What did you say?" asks the officer, who kneels on the suspect's back and apparently cuffs him on the back of his head.
"Jesus? You're calling Jesus? You (expletive)! Don't you dare. Don't you (expletive) dare!" the officer says.
The physical response by the officers is over by the one minute mark of the video, after which two officers can be seen giving each other a fist bump. After appearing motionless on the ground, the man is eventually stood up and searched. The officers found a pistol.
"That's a justified (expletive) whipping," a female officer says.
Ron Craig, 26, said his mother, Emma Craig, shot the video from her front door on Plainview on Detroit's west side. Emma Craig was not home when The Detroit News interviewed her son Tuesday afternoon.
"He was in handcuffs," Craig said as he stood near the spot where police had the suspect on the ground. "You had him captured. He was no threat."
"It's not a race issue, it's a humanitarian issue," he said.
Duggan, in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, said he reached out to Worthy after he viewed the video.
"Prosecutor Worthy has asked that the matter be handled by an independent investigation by the Michigan State Police," Duggan wrote.
"The prosecutor has indicated that she will be actively monitoring the investigation. The Detroit Police Department will cooperate fully with the Michigan State Police investigation."
Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality Director Ron Scott called the officers' actions "disrespectful and sacrilegious."
"If this kind of behavior is unchecked, it will provoke more adverse reaction from the community," Scott said. "This is not just creating distrust of police officers by the community; it's creating a reaction on the part of the public."
The Coalition for Justice and Fairness to Reform Law Enforcement said the video "conveys a very disturbing message" and "goes to the heart of what continues to divide the police departments from the communities in which they serve. Surely there must be proper steps to take when officers engage the public in the discharge of their duties."
Haberfeld, who studies police training and use of force, stressed the videotaped footage does not reveal what led to the physical contact.
"You cannot judge an event based on a snippet," she said, adding the suspect might have resisted officers.
Task forces, she said, typically are designed to focus on specific areas, including violent crimes such as carjacking. And since those groups often are "more skewed to crime fighting, rather than community policing," that means the members' tactics follow suit.
"They know that their job is to deal with the most violent criminals out there. There's a probability of use of force and use of excessive force."
The multi-jurisdictional stolen car task force, ACTION, includes officers from Grosse Pointe Park, Detroit, Warren, Harper Woods and Highland Park and is paid for by a Grosse Pointe Park police grant.
It was not yet clear which police agencies were involved in the arrest; the officers were in plain clothes. Earlier Tuesday, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said there may have been a DPD supervisor at the scene who could have been a witness. But in a statement later, Craig clarified that none of the officers was from Detroit. He also said he had not seen a statement released earlier by the ACTION task force that bore his name, as well those of other chiefs involved in the task force.
"There were no DPD officers at the scene at the time of the arrest and I did not intend to express any opinion on the actions of the officers involved," Craig said in the statement.
Hiller said the incident occurred at 11 a.m. Monday on Detroit's northwest side after police were alerted to the suspect's whereabouts by a tracking device. "We're looking at it, and we believe the officers actions were proper," Hiller said. "In effecting the arrest, they had to kick to get his arms free because he was going for his gun, which was in his waistband.
"This subject was a parole absconder wanted for an armed robbery in Detroit. He was armed with a handgun," Hiller said.
According to Hiller, task force officers were tracking a vehicle that had been carjacked two hours earlier.
In that incident, police say the suspect pointed a gun at a mother and her two children and ordered them out of the vehicle, threatening to shoot.
The officers followed the vehicle to the area of McNichols and Evergreen, where it pulled into a driveway.
The officers attempted an arrest, but the suspect ran for a quarter-mile before being tackled.
"The subject resisted arrest and in an attempt to restrain him an officer deployed a Taser," according to a police statement. "However, it failed to take effect due to the subject's heavy clothing. The subject continue(d) to reach for the area of his waist band and refused all orders to show his hands.
"He curled up in a ball and his right hand again went under his clothing. Fearing for their safety and those in the immediate area, an officer delivered a kick to the thigh area of the subject, thus allowing the other officers the ability to arrest the subject. Located in his waist band was a loaded semi-automatic handgun."
According to the video, a search of the handcuffed man around the 5:15 mark shows police finding the handgun on the suspect.
"There, there's the pistol right there," says one officer.
"They found a pistol on this guy," said the woman recording the search. "They just took the clip out."
Grosse Pointe Park officers took the suspect into custody after the incident.
"We have not been presented with a warrant for the carjacking case yet," said Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.
Hiller said Tuesday the suspect didn't shoot at the officers.
"They were required to utilize various techniques to effect the arrest," according to the police statement. "Due to the totality of the circumstances, we believe the actions of the officers in effecting the arrest proper. We will continue to review the incident should additional information develop."
Grosse Pointe Park police made headlines in 2013 over a videotape incident that critics said was racially insensitive.
In November 2013, five Grosse Pointe Park police officers were suspended for two months for their involvement in the controversial videotaping of a mentally impaired African-American man.
Three grainy cellphone videos showed a man singing and making odd noises.
The man said the recordings "made me feel like a fool." The police department underwent sensitivity training to focus on dealing with people with mental disorders.
Staff Writers Mark Hicks and Candice Williams contributed.
A task force officer straddles a handcuffed carjacking suspect, who lies face down on the sidewalk, before delivering blows.
Another officer prepares to deliver a kick.
The officer who kicked the suspect puts his knee on his back and asks why the suspect is invoking the name of Jesus: "Don't you (expletive) dare!" the officer says.
Officers from an anti-car theft task force subdue a carjacking suspect. They were caught on tape Monday by a woman who watched from her front door on Detroit's west side.