Lawsuit planned in case of Detroit cops' racist video

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Ariel Moore, who was allegedly taunted by Detroit cops, and State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, at a press conference

Detroit — Attorney Geoffrey Fieger said Friday he plans to sue the city on behalf of a 23-year-old woman who allegedly was taunted on video by Detroit police officers who'd impounded her vehicle.

Ariel Moore was driving on the city's west side Jan. 29 when she was pulled over by 6th Precinct officers Gary Steele and Michael Garrison. She had an expired registration, so the officers had her vehicle towed.

After Moore declined the officers' offer of a ride, Steele filmed her as she trekked homeward, allegedly mocking her by saying "priceless" and "bye Felicia," while his partner is heard on the video saying "walk of shame."

When Steele later posted the video to Snapchat, he added filters with the captions "What black girl magic looks like" and "celebrating Black History Month," according to the video, first posted by WXYZ (Channel 7).

Both officers are suspended with pay, pending the results of an internal affairs investigation.

The incident has made national headlines. On Friday, a group of politicians and civic leaders attended a press conference at Focus: Hope in Detroit to protest how the officers handled the traffic stop, and to call for more mental health screening and cultural sensitivity training for police.

Moore attended Friday's press briefing, accompanied by her mother and Fieger Law attorney Greg Wix, who said afterward Moore would have no comment.

Reached by phone, Fieger was asked if he planned to sue the city. "Oh, yes," he said. "I'll let you know when I'm going to file it."

After the video surfaced, Craig launched an internal affairs probe and an "environmental audit" of the 6th Precinct. During Thursday's Board of Police Commissioners meeting, the chief said he expects to have both probes completed within two weeks.

The preliminary results of the audit have found racial-related problems on the 6th Precinct afternoon shift, which Steele and Garrison work, Craig said.

"The entire 6th Precinct is not engaging in this type of behavior; preliminarily, it appears to be isolated to the afternoon shift," Craig told the board."Those two officers (Steele and Garrison) set a tone for that shift that did have an impact on younger officers.

"There was an officer who came forward," Craig said. "The officer rejected this Snapchat video, and in doing so, he was booted out of a private chat room, and some of these 6th Precinct officers … said some things in that chat room that we consider inappropriate."

During Friday's press conference, State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit said she was outraged by the "disrespect" the officers showed Moore.

"This is not just a Detroit story — it's a national story," said Gay-Dagnogo, who hosted the press conference with Rep. LaTanya Garrett, D-Detroit.

"Mocking black history? Come on, now," Gay-Dagnogo said. "Our ancestors would be offended if we didn't stand up today."

Gay-Dagnogo she respects that the police investigation has to be finished before any action can be taken against Steele and Moore. "I believe the chief will do the right thing," she said. 

"We will establish a committee to watch the 6th Precinct," Gay-Dagnogo said. "We are locking arms like never before to advance an agenda, an urban agenda that says we're not going to take it anymore. When you mock Ariel, you mock all of us."

Kim Trent, a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors, told Moore: "We want to put our arms around you."

"We're not here to bash the chief of police or law enforcement, because we know they have a difficult job," Trent said. "But Officer Steele didn't show respect to that woman on that bitterly cold night, and we won't stand for it.

Trent added: "There has to be a thorough investigation. We know there's a process. Right now (Steele) is on paid ..." 

Several people in the audience interjected: "Paid vacation."

Craig initially reassigned Steele after hearing about the video and launching an internal investigation. On Monday, the chief suspended Steele and Garrison with pay, as required by the union contract.

The City Charter mandates the police chief must get permission from the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners to suspend an officer without pay. It was unclear whether Craig would ask the board to approve unpaid suspensions for the two cops.

During the internal affairs investigation into last week's video, Craig said allegations surfaced about another racially-insensitive video Steele allegedly posted to Snapchat during the holidays in 2017, in which he made fun of a family that had to walk home carrying their Christmas presents.
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