2 ex-cops won't be charged over mocking Snapchat video

The Detroit News

Criminal charges will not be filed against two former Detroit police officers who were heard on a Snapchat video mocking a black motorist after a traffic stop in January, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Tuesday.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“A thorough and complete review of the allegations against former Detroit Police Department Corporal Gary Steele and Officer Michael Garrison shows reprehensible, disturbing and unprofessional conduct following a January 29, 2019 police stop of a 24-year-old woman," Worthy said in a statement.

"However, we are charged with determining whether there is sufficient evidence to charge a crime," she said. "There is insufficient evidence to criminally charge either officer. The allegations reviewed could support other possible liability.”

Steele posted the video after a Jan. 29 traffic stop on Detroit's west side.

Steele and his partner Garrison, who are white,  are heard on the video mocking Ariel Moore, the woman they'd pulled over.

The video, first aired by WXYZ-TV (Ch. 7) shows Moore walking home as Steele says "priceless" and "bye Felicia" with caption tags that read, "What black girl magic looks like," and "celebrating Black History Month." 

Garrison is allegedly heard on the video saying "walk of shame." 

Police Chief James Craig fired Steele and Garrison and the department submitted a warrant request to Wayne County prosecutors for possible criminal charges against Steele. He declined to comment Tuesday, saying he had not been notified of the decision by the prosecutor's office.

In a news release, Worthy's office said Steele did not create the video while conducting police business or while using police property. "The video was taken after, not during, the time the citizen was in custody," the release says. "There is insufficient evidence to show that during his interaction with the woman that he treated the woman unfairly or inequitably during the official police interaction."

After the video surfaced, Craig launched two investigations: An internal probe into the video itself; and an "environmental audit" of the 6th Precinct, where the two officers were assigned, to determine whether there was widespread racial animosity among officers.

In March, Craig said the audit found a racial divide, adding that Steele and Garrison fueled many of the hostilities. The chief said the two cops would often target black citizens to tow their vehicles at the end of their shift so they didn't have to respond to other runs.

Worthy also declined to issue charges against Steele in connection with an incident May 31, 2018, in which the officer arrested a woman while she was holding her infant child.

The prosecutor's office gave this account of the incident, which it said was captured on body cameras worn by Steele and other officers:

The woman, 23, admitted to police she had shot at someone else and claimed self-defense. When Steele told her she would be arrested, she refused to give the child to another officer for safekeeping until her mother arrived.

Steele offered to let the woman call her mother to get the baby but the woman declined, saying she wanted to walk a block away to give the infant to someone.

Steele told officers to take the child, which they did safely, but slipped her arm free when Steele went to arrest her and suffered a broken arm as the officer tried to handcuff her.

"The victim was objectively resisting arrest when her arm was fractured as Steele was trying to handcuff her," the prosecutor's office said in its statement. "The victim backed away repeatedly and said that she was not going to be arrested."

The statement added that Steele's force "appears reasonable and not done intentionally to cause harm."