Sister: Victim in Greektown ‘tried to break up fight’

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Brandon Putnam was celebrating his 23rd birthday in Greektown on Saturday night when his sister said he tried to break up a fight, only to wind up beaten, stomped and left for dead on the sidewalk as his attackers jeered and mugged for a cellphone camera.

The incident was captured on a wobbly 51-second video posted to Facebook hours later. The video opens showing an apparently unconscious man lying on the sidewalk outside the Greektown Parking Garage at the corner of Monroe and St. Antoine. The camera then pans to a man pulling another man by the leg, while others jump in and begin kicking and beating him.

The man on the sidewalk was Putnam, said his 21-year-old sister, who asked to remain anonymous, fearing retribution from her brother’s attackers. She said his brain is bleeding, and that he has a broken eye socket. He’s scheduled for surgery Tuesday, she said.

“He opened his eyes (Monday) and asked, ‘What happened to me?’” Putnam’s sister said.

Police are poring through the Facebook video of the incident along with surveillance video captured by several cameras mounted near the scene at St. Antoine and Beaubien, outside the Greektown Casino Hotel.

“It’s Greektown, so there are cameras everywhere,” police Chief James Craig said, adding police have photos of the men involved in the beating of Putnam and two other men identified by his sister as cousins.

Police also are working to identify the suspects’ three vehicles, captured by surveillance cameras at the casino parking structure, Craig said. Two of the vehicles are registered outside of Detroit, one in Canton Township, and one is a rental, Craig said.

Because of the video’s graphic nature, The Detroit News is not posting it online.

Putnam’s sister said she threw him a birthday party in her home earlier Saturday. “Then we decided to go downtown,” she said.

The woman said her brother is a rapper, who performed briefly at a Greektown hookah bar, accompanied by her and their two male cousins. After the gig, the group walked on Monroe toward the casino.

“We never made it to the casino,” Putnam’s sister said. “My cousin said something, and one of those boys from another group thought he had said something wrong to him, so they jumped on him.

“Brandon was actually trying to stop it when they ran up on him,” his sister said. “There were about 15 of them.”

In the video, after the opening shot of Putnam lying on the curb, the camera pans to two men who rush over to another man lying on the sidewalk and begin beating and kicking him amid shouts from onlookers. The camera sweeps left, showing a man knocking down another man with a punch; the victim falls next to the prone man who was in the video’s initial shot.

The second man is attacked for a few seconds before he’s able to get up. One man delivers a punch to the first man’s head before walking away.

Putnam’s sister said one of the men attacked in the video was a stranger trying to help.

Several people are seen on the video laughing as the men are beaten. Another group watches from outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which, according to the church website, had hosted “the Great Vigil of Easter Men’s Choir” service beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Toward the end of the video, a man wearing a red vest waves his hands, gesturing in an apparent effort to stop the others from further beating the prone man.

“When I first saw that video, I broke my phone,” Putnam’s sister said. “I just threw it down. I was so heated to see my brother laying there, and people still hitting him and laughing; nobody trying to stop them.”

She said she’s grateful to the man in the red vest who intervened. “But why did he wait so long? He could’ve done something earlier, while they were hitting and kicking my brother when he was on the pavement.”

Putnam’s sister said one of her cousins suffered broken ribs while the other required stitches in his head.

“Nobody can believe this happened,” she said. “My brother is a good guy. He’s not out there selling drugs. He has a job; he’s a janitor in the Troy Community Schools. He’s not out causing trouble. He just tried to break up a fight, and this is what happened.”

Detroit News reporter James David Dickson contributed.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN