Detroit police sergeant previously fired for cowardice but got job back

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Detroit police sergeant at the center of accusations that he failed to act after a fellow officer was killed by a gunman last week had been previously terminated for cowardice before being reinstated in a deal the city's police chief says he did not sign off on. 

Those revelations came as police officials announced Tuesday they might seek charges against Sgt. Ronald Kidd over his alleged behavior during last week's fatal shooting of Detroit police officer Rasheen McClain. 

Police Chief James Craig said Tuesday the department might seek misdemeanor neglect of duty charges against Kidd, who "sat in his scout car a block away while you could hear people screaming ‘officer down’ on the radio," the chief said. Kidd was suspended Monday.

Detroit police officers gather on the corners of Wyoming and Chippewa near where Officer Rasheen McClain was fatally wounded on Wednesday.

The misdemeanor carries up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

The Nov. 20 incident wasn't the first time Kidd stood by while a coworker was in danger, Craig said. Kidd was fired in 2014 for cowardice after police video showed he failed to act while his female partner was being assaulted by a mentally ill man in a detention facility, Craig said.

Kidd got his job back via an internal plea agreement, although Craig said he didn't agree to the 2015 deal, which he said was signed by someone else using the chief's name. Craig said he's investigating what happened with the signature, which he insisted wasn't his handwriting.

That agreement lowered Kidd's punishment from termination for cowardice to a 68-day suspension, Craig said.

"I wouldn't have entered into that kind of deal, and when I looked at the agreement, someone signed my name agreeing to this," Craig said. "Someone scrawled a signature, but that absolutely is not my signature. So I'm trying to find out what happened.

"I remember vividly the video of the female officer getting beat up. There's no way I'd have signed that agreement." 

Kidd, who has been with the department since 1998, was later promoted to the rank of sergeant in June 2018. Craig said union rules mandated Kidd be put on the promotion list, although the chief said, "if it was up to me, I wouldn't have promoted him."

Attempts to reach Kidd on Tuesday were not successful.

Detroit Police Officer Rasheen McClain was killed on duty Wednesday.

On Monday, Craig announced he'd suspended Kidd after the chief said he reviewed the McClain shooting.

McClain's death was the culmination of a series of shootings involving the 28-year-old suspect, a parolee whom police officials say was obsessed with a 16-year-old girl and a 32-year-old woman, police said.

Craig clarified at the Tuesday press conference the suspect was in relationships with both the teenager and the woman. The woman lived in the house on Wyoming where McClain and his partner were shot, although the 16-year-old does not live there as police initially thought, Craig said. He added investigators have not been able to locate the teen.

"This is a very complicated case," Craig said. "I was initially led to believe that (the suspect) was going to the house to seek out the 16-year-old, but it turns out, he is in a relationship with a 32-year-old female. He also had a dating relationship with the 16-year-old."

Craig said the two females are not related. The chief also said the suspect slept in the home from time to time but did not live there.

On Oct. 30, the suspect went to the Wyoming house demanding to see the woman, Craig said. "Her son didn't want him there; he refused entry, so (the suspect) shot the house up.

"The 16-year-old was a factor," the chief said. "We believe that was part of his rage. He had some kind of dating relationship with her."

An internal investigation into how detectives followed up on that shooting is ongoing, Craig said. Earlier, he told The News investigators tried once to contact the home's occupants, and then sent a letter asking them to call back, rather than following up in person.

Craig said the 28-year-old suspect returned to the home Wednesday, looking for the 32-year-old woman, and then broke into the house and holed up inside with a rifle.

McClain and his partner, Phillippe Batoum-Bisse, responded at 7:30 p.m. after an occupant of the house dialed 911 to report the home invasion.

McClain called for backup and then led a team of four officers into the house to search for the gunman. As they descended the basement stairs, police officials say the man fired off two shots, striking McClain in the neck and Batoum-Bisse in the left ankle.

Police submitted a warrant request to Wayne County Prosecutors, who said more investigative work needed to be done.

Craig said Kidd's body-worn camera showed "an unacceptable response from a supervisor" after the officers were shot.

"The camera shows that after the shooting, a group of officers ran to a location where they thought the suspect was hiding," Craig said. "On the camera, you can hear (Kidd) saying to another officer, 'They must know something. We should get cover.'

"So he sits in his car while all this is going on, and when he finally makes it to the scene, he makes that statement? That's unacceptable," Craig said. "What should have happened is, he should have joined those officers who were trying to arrest a suspect who'd just shot two fellow officers.

"The other brave officers are going after this dangerous suspect, who'd just shot two officers with a high-powered rifle — and instead of helping, Kidd stays back and says he should take cover."

Mark Young, president of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association union, did not respond to requests for comment.

Craig said several times on Tuesday that Kidd's actions aren't indicative of most department supervisors.

"The vast majority of our supervisors do it the way we want them to do it," he said. "Are supervisors going to make bad decisions at times? Yes. As a supervisor, have I made bad decisions? Yes.

"But not making a decision and avoiding going to a scene and assuming command is never an option," the chief said. "You wanted to be a sergeant. ... You go to the scene and take control."