Felony charges of 2 Detroit sergeants prompt police outrage

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Detroit Police Chief James Craig

Detroit — Two Detroit police sergeants were charged with felonies Monday after an altercation last year with a group of men in the Greektown Casino hotel — charges that were criticized by the city's top cop and the subject of a reportedly volatile meeting between Mayor Mike Duggan and municipal employees.

Sgt. Raytheon Martin, 40, and Sgt. Lacell Rue, 35, were charged by the county's prosecutor's office in connection with a July 22, 2018 incident, which was described as the following:

"At approximately 2:55 a.m., in the lobby of the Greektown Casino parking garage ... it is alleged that Sgt. Martin and Sgt. Rue had a verbal exchange with a 26-year-old Detroit man," a press release from the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said.

"During the exchange — although the man did not make any aggressive physical gesture — it is alleged that Sgt. Martin struck the man in back of the head and proceeded to punch him multiple times while the man was on the ground.

"It is further alleged that Sgt. Rue tased the man twice, although he was not aggressive and was holding his hands up. The investigation revealed that the incident was captured on video."

Both men were arraigned Monday in 36th District Court on felony charges of misconduct in office, which carry a penalty of a $1,000 fine or a year in prison. Martin also was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, a 10-year felony.

Police Chief James Craig said he was "troubled" by the charges and said based on the information he has, it appears the two sergeants may have been "overcharged." Craig said he reviewed the hotel surveillance video.

"This could have a chilling effect on how our officers do their jobs," Craig said. "If they're reluctant to use force when force is needed, that's not good. I'm not happy about it at all.

"I've only seen one video, and there may be other information I'm not aware of, but right now I'm having a difficult time understanding why these officers were charged with felonies."

Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said Monday that "now that the matter is in progress, we will not release or comment on any allegations or evidence. The evidence in the case will come out on the record in court.”

Craig said the incident started when a group of young men who appeared to be under the influence of intoxicants began causing trouble in the hotel lobby. Officers were called to the scene, and the situation escalated, he said.

"This led to the officers using force," Craig said at a press conference at police headquarters. "When I had a chance to look at the video, I can tell you I'm troubled. We as an agency are never shy about addressing criminal misconduct, and uses of force never look good.

"But from what I saw on the video, it's troubling that there were felony charges filed. I'm going to take an exhaustive look at this; I need to understand why these two officers were charged."

Craig said early in the confrontation, one member of the group "took what I would describe as a fighting stance. Should an officer wait to be struck? I wasn't there, but that video causes me concern for the men and women who go out there every day and have to deal with volatile incidents."

The chief said several police officers were at the scene, and he said he was troubled that a lieutenant who was not charged didn't step in to try to deescalate the situation.

Martin was placed on administrative duty after the incident. Craig said they both will be suspended with pay.

During a meeting at Public Safety Headquarters on Monday between Duggan and municipal employees, including police, several officers expressed concern about the charges. After the meeting, officers milled outside the second-floor meeting room at police headquarters grumbling about the charges.

"The mayor is holding regular employee forums in all departments to hear what issues are raised," Duggan's spokesman John Roach said. "He had not heard about the charging of the officers until the forum today so he did not express any opinion about this case, but he listened carefully to the concerns they expressed."

Mark Young, president of the Sergeants and Lieutenants Association Union, added: "We stand behind both sergeants 1,000 percent. They were overcharged. In no other county would they have been charged with felonies.

"These people came to Greektown to wreak havoc, and these officers responded," Young said. "This is why nobody wants to be the police."