Family relieved AG will investigate Shelby Twp. police killing of unarmed man
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that the victim was Sikh.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel will review reviewing the Shelby Township police killing in 2018 of an unarmed Sikh man after his mother says she called police out of concern for his safety.
Kanwarbir Malhi's mother says she always wondered what happened that night.
“I question, was it his fault that he was shot or not?” said Gurraj Malhi. “What I don’t understand is how I call the police for them to bring him home safely, and he ends up dead.”
Malhi, 25, was shot by Shelby Township police on November 3, 2018. The incident was investigated by Shelby Township Police and the Macomb County Sheriff's Office and the prosecutor declined to bring charges.
Police responded to a call in which Malhi's mother reported her son was using illegal narcotics and that her 2005 Honda had been stolen. According to police, his mother said Kanwarbir, who had no drivers’ license, had taken the vehicle. Upon arriving, police said they were informed by a family member that Malhi had mentioned "suicide by cop."
An officer spotted the vehicle in the parking lot of the Spring Hill Apartment complex, where his mother lived, according to Macomb County Sheriff's Office.
Malhi was in the driver's seat. After giving Malhi several commands, officers said Malhi refused to comply with police orders and they believed he was armed with a weapon.
An investigation found he was unarmed.
Nessel said she would review the case and present her findings in an unbiased and transparent manner. The re-opening of the case was prompted by a dashcam video that was released on Monday. The footage in the video was never seen by the public prior to Monday’s release but was in the possession of the Macomb County Sheriff's Office.
Warning: This video contains graphic content
The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office received the footage following an investigation by Shelby Township's police department. Police Chief Robert Shelide said in the original press conference that he and the two other officers that make up Shelby’s Executive Board decided to turn the case over to the Macomb County Sheriff's Office after their investigation. The sheriff's office presented the results of its investigation to the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, which decided not to file charges against the officers involved in the shooting.
Nessel's office released this statement Thursday morning.
“As Attorney General I have consistently advocated for a thorough, comprehensive and objective review of all officer-involved shootings, particularly those which result in fatalities,” Nessel said. “This matter will receive an exhaustive review and analysis with an impartial lens and, when completed, our department is committed to transparency in our decision-making process, irrespective of the outcome. Justice demands nothing less.”
Warning: This video contains graphic content
Karanjit Malhi, the victim's brother, says the family is grateful to hear that Nessel is going to reinvestigate the case.
“We need answers” Malhi said to The Detroit News Thursday morning. “We need justice for my brother.”
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said he welcomed the legal review.
“In light of recent inquiries into our investigation, we welcome the Attorney General’s office to review our investigation, facts and findings that were presented to the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office,” Wickersham said in a statement provided by the attorney general's office. “We will provide the Attorney General’s office anything they need as we remain open and transparent.”
Demonstrations have developed in the township since June, after inflammatory social media posts by police Chief Robert Shelide about Black Lives Matter protesters. He subsequently was suspended for 30 days by the township board of trustees.
Shelide reported back to work Monday, and his return drew about 60 protesters, including the Rev. W.J. Rideout and others who took a knee in the middle of Van Dyke and blocked traffic.
Rideout, who was arrested on Wednesday at a protest, was the first to speak out on the video.
"I think that the Attorney General, Dana Nessel, needs to look into this and see about bringing possible charges to this Shelby township police department” Rideout said. “I feel like this was just open murder by a police officer and an unjustified shooting.
"In fact, all police involved shootings should be made available to the public. Unfortunately, given what keeps happening, this is the transparency we now need.”
The protesters have called for the termination or resignation of Shelide and Shelby Township Trustee John Vermeulen, who allegedly shared a Facebook post mocking the removal of Aunt Jemima from Quaker Oats products less than two days after he and four other trustees suspended Shelide for his posts.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says that while he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to publicly comment on the video because he has no “full knowledge” or the “complete entirety of the incident” he does think that as long as Shelide is still in office, every time something questionable takes place, Shelby Township [police department] is going to be under “extreme scrutiny.”
“Because of his conduct, it has put the department in a bad light” Hackell said to The Detroit News. “Shelide even admitted his actions were unacceptable and the board still decided to keep him on.”
Shelide, on an alias social media account, said protesters should be placed in “body bags” and “real cops” should be taking care of barbarians.
Rideout, who has organized protests in the township, told The Detroit News on Monday that protesters would continue their demonstrations. “We are going to continue to march until he is gone,” referring to Shelide.