Suit alleges Detroit police beat man for aiding protesters

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — An Oakland County man has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Detroit and five Detroit Police officers, saying they attacked and beat him last summer as he came to the aid of protesters outside his girlfriend's downtown apartment.

In his 21-page lawsuit, Kevin Kwart said he was kicked and pummeled by the officers as he tried to give refuge to protesters Aug. 22 inside the Woodward Avenue apartment building.

Kevin Kwart alleges in a federal lawsuit that Detroit police beat him for trying to help protesters last August.

 "Kevin did not participate in the protest, but upon witnessing police officers in riot gear assemble to storm the protesters, he offered the apartment’s vestibule as a place for those who wished to disburse (sic) but could not do so safely to seek shelter," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

"Once the police began deploying tear gas, pepper spray, and batons ... several individuals entered the lobby of the building seeking safety and shelter. At all times, Kevin remained a few feet from the front door, never left the sidewalk, and maintained his distance from the conflict."

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, added: "At one point, Kevin even politely handed an officer a piece of equipment dropped by another officer" but was "eventually rushed, dogpiled, and brutally beaten by four Detroit police officers without provocation."

Named in the lawsuit are Detroit Police officers Stephen Anouti, Sgt. Timothy Vernon and three unidentified officers.

Kwart alleges he was fully subdued and Anouti and the three unidentified officers "took turns" punching him in the face, "grinding his head into the pavement, kicking him, and stomping him" until Kwart required medical treatment.

 The officers attacked Kwart for about two minutes, occasionally kicking him and stomping on him, the complaint says.

Vernon signed the tickets against Kwart "as the witnessing/complaining officer despite, on information and belief, not actually witnessing the alleged violations by plaintiff or participating in plaintiff’s arrest," according to the lawsuit.

Kwart maintains he never left the sidewalk yet was charged with disobeying a lawful order and disorderly conduct. The offense, a misdemeanor, was dismissed.

According to the lawsuit, Kwart had warned protesters that police were about to advance on them and he only wanted to give them a place to find safety. Kwart said he did not participate in the protest and noticed police were about to attack the protesters when he took his dog out for a walk.

Police stormed protesters with tear gas and batons just as Kwart had warned, the lawsuit alleges.

Lawrence T. Garcia, the city of Detroit's corporation counsel, said Thursday in response to the lawsuit: "We are aware of Mr. Kwart's complaints, and the DPD has an open investigation on the matter." 

Detroit Will Breathe and other groups mounted protests for more than 100 days last year calling for police reform following the May 25 death of George Floyd, whose neck was pinned for more than nine minutes by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin; Chauvin is on trial for murder.

Protesters in Detroit have complained that police used excessive force against them. Police have said the protesters wanted to incite civil unrest and were blocking traffic. Police officials said at the time that they would investigate the reports of excessive force by officers.