Craig shows new video of cop punching woman in hospital

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Police chief James Craig invited community members and police commissioners Wednesday to Public Safety Headquarters to view body-cam video that the chief said sheds new light on a use-of-force incident last year that made headlines.

After Wednesday's meeting, one person said watching the new video changed her mind, while two others said it didn't quell their desire to see Detroit police Cpl. Dewayne Jones disciplined — or fired — for punching a naked, mentally-ill woman in Detroit Receiving Hospital on Aug. 1, 2018.

Jones was convicted in March of misdemeanor assault and battery after the incident that involved the 29-year-old woman. She spit at Jones and hospital staff who were trying to calm her down after she launched an expletive-laden tirade. The encounter then became physical, and punches were thrown.

Jones is appealing his misdemeanor conviction. He originally was charged with felony misconduct in office before 36th District Judge Cylenthia Miller dismissed the charge in January. 

From left, police attorney Grant Ha and assistant police chief David LeValley listen as Chief James Craig addresses citizens and police board members Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.

Cellphone and hospital surveillance videos of the incident were made public, but Craig said he recently viewed footage from Jones' partner's body-worn camera that hadn't been seen by citizens prior to Wednesday's meeting. 

"This shows a different angle than the video that the public saw," Craig said. "I still haven't made a decision (whether to fire Jones). That matter is under appeal, and I'm not going to do a final adjudication until that's resolved.

"But I thought members of the community and the Board of Police Commissioners should see it too, so they'll have all the available information," Craig said.

Craig invited Eric Blount and Sheila White of the Detroit violence prevention organization Her Cries are Heard; Lisa Carter, chairwoman of the police board, and police commissioner Willie Bell to the meeting. Other command staff and the police department's attorney also attended the meeting, which lasted about a hour-and-a-half.

During public comments at recent police board meetings, Blount repeatedly has asked Craig whether he plans to fire Jones. 

"That's why I wanted you to see this video," Craig said. "You've asked about this at every board meeting, and I'm committed to being transparent."

Blount expressed concern that Jones, a 19-year veteran of the force, would be allowed to retire without being disciplined.

During Wednesday's meeting, Craig also read aloud comments from Miller, the judge who dismissed the felony charges against Jones. 

"This woman was out of control," Miller said. "(Jones) could have gone off. He never did. He still maintained his composure. He just kept saying 'sit down.'''

Craig said: "Judge Miller did a very thorough job. In her assessment, she said she viewed the video 5,000 times. She didn't just look at the 11 seconds of actual force; she looked at 45 minutes. She wanted to see the totality of the officer's behavior before and after the force.

"The judge determined that the officer was not out of control," Craig said. "After seeing this second video, I agree with her."

The body-cam footage angle shows the mentally-ill woman bite a hospital security guard twice before he punched her multiple times, which are not visible on the previously-released video.

"The guard was bitten twice by her, and she tried to bite Cpl. Jones as well," Craig said. "The other video doesn't show that the hospital staff made the first contact."

After the guard hit the woman, the video is shaky as she, the guard and officer grapple. Jones then punches her in the face, and then, with the help of hospital staff, places the woman on a gurney.

"Throughout all this, as you can see, she's violently resisting," Craig said. "At the time of the initial review, I only had what the community had: A cell phone video, and it appeared from that video the woman was in retreat mode.

"But this new angle shows new information," Craig said. "This is information the board and the public have not had available to them. The body-worn camera is very different than the cell phone video.

"In the first video, which the public saw, it appeared (the woman) wasn't resisting; it looked to me like she was trying to get away," Craig said. "But when you look at the other video, it's clear she was resisting."

Lisa Carter, who spent 27 years at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, many of them working in the Wayne County Jail, said she encountered numerous inmates with mental issues who exhibited uncanny strength.

"Having worked int the jail for several years, and working with mentally ill people, I can tell you: We'd go to a cell block and ask a mentally-ill person to step into their cell, and you'd think everything was all right — and then five officers end up going to the hospital because of that superhuman strength they have," Carter said. "I don't know where they get it; it's like when a mother sees her kids in danger and is able to lift up a car.

"Having seen this video, it changes my view," Carter said. "You only have a split-second to make a decision. I think they should've handcuffed her at the beginning, hindsight being 20/20. Moving forward, we should look at policy to see if it needs to be changed."

Craig said Detroit police policy already calls for immediately cuffing someone in that situation. "I agree he should have handcuffed her," he said.

Police commissioner Willie Bell, a longtime Detroit cop, said he thought Jones could have handled the situation more effectively. 

"That's just my opinion, but I've seen this situation many times on the street, and I think this should have been handled better," Bell said.

Blount also said his mind wasn't changed after viewing the video footage. He asked Craig: "Could you see yourself firing this officer?"

"This matter is still under review," Craig replied. "I'm not here to talk about my adjudication of this officer. It was important for me to show you what you probably weren't aware of, not necessarily for the purpose of agreement, but in the interest of transparency.

"The officer is appealing, and we'll see what the outcome of this case is," Craig said. "This is not an easy case. Use of force never looks good. When you see the small size of this woman, you can't help but feel a certain way. That's someone's mother, someone's sister.

"But I've walked in those shoes, and sometimes when you encounter people, regardless of their size, you are not dealing with a normal person," Craig said. "You're just not."

Craig added Jones is a bodybuilder, and could have hurt the woman if he'd wanted to.

"There were no contusions, and no broken bones," he said. "He's a big, muscular guy, and if he'd have wanted to really hit her hard, there would have been some damage. I would not want to be punched by him with all his might."

Craig said he would not release the body-cam video to the public until the case has been resolved.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN