Video of officer punching girl during arrest prompts review in Lansing

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

An effort by Lansing police Friday to arrest two teens has sparked an internal investigation after a first-year police officer was filmed punching the thigh of a handcuffed 16-year-old girl as she held out her leg to prevent police from shutting the door of their SUV.

Police said in a statement that the 16-year-old girl wasn't injured during her arrest, and did not require medical treatment.

A Lansing police officer struggles to get the leg of a 16-year-old female into a police vehicle in this frame capture from body-camera video. A second officer in the video attempted to buckle the girl's leg by punching it repeatedly.

The Lansing Police Department said it would conduct an internal investigation into the use of force in the incident "to ensure that the officers' response to the resistance encountered was reasonable, in light of the totality of the circumstances." 

A spokesman for Lansing police could not immediately be reached Sunday.

A news release posted on the department's Twitter account and other social media said that the department reviewed the body camera video and "has obtained additional facts."

It also said that officers Lindsey Howley, a one-year employee, and Bailey Ueberroth, a six-month employee, were placed on administrative leave during the internal probe.

Video of the body camera during the arrest was released to the public via the department's website, Facebook and YouTube page in an effort to stay "true to the department's commitment to transparency and police legitimacy," the department's Office of Public Information said.

“Allegations or complaints against department employees are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated," said Chief Mike Yankowski in the news release. "The Lansing Police Department holds its employees to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.”

The Lansing State Journal reported that Yankowski and Mayor Andy Schor attended a protest Saturday outside the Police Department.

The Lansing branches of Black Lives Matter and the NAACP did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said on Sunday that the videos of the officers body cameras have been reviewed by officials and released.

"Lansing residents hold our police officers to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity, and expect them to act as they are trained and according to our rules and regulations," he said in a statement.

"Both officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by internal affairs and our police chief, with involvement of our citizen Police Board of Commissioners. We take this situation very seriously, and will continue to be transparent with the public as this progresses."

The incident began about 11:10 a.m. when police responded to the 1100 block of Dakin, to check on a male, 15, and a 16-year-old female, who were wanted for "probation violations, escape from custody, and runaway warrants," said a statement from the Lansing police. That's south of E. Malcolm X St., and east of South Pennsylvania Ave.

When officers spotted the suspects, they "called out" to them, and the two ran before quickly being caught. The male suspect's arrest was captured, in progress, on a body camera worn by an Officer Howley. Lansing police posted a half-hour video from Howley's camera on YouTube after the incident.

As the male suspect is being loaded into a police vehicle, officers empty his pockets. Two minutes in, the woman officer, apparently having pulled cigarettes out of the suspect's pocket, tells him "you're too young to smoke, man."

But by the 2:45 mark, Officer Lindsey Howley, the first-year officer, runs up the street and assists on the second arrest, of the teen girl.

The girl, now handcuffed, is being walked toward a second police SUV. At least one person shouts expletives off-camera, including one directly at the police. Another expresses concern for the girl's treatment, screaming "that's a child! Let that child go."

The woman officer tells the girl "don't add a felony charge to yourself."

A male officer adds: "You want to let yourself go like that?"

The girl responds, in so many words, that she doesn't care, and tells the officers to drag her. Which they did. As she's dragged toward the police vehicle, the girl screams and cries.

While she's on pavement, face-down, the girl shouts to someone off-camera that "when I get out, I'm going to **** you up."

The person asks, was that a threat?

The suspect confirms that it was.

At the 5:15 mark, the girl is sitting in the SUV, but holds her leg out, stiff, and refuses to bend it and allow police to close the door behind her.

For about the next 45 seconds, the female officer punches the girl's extended leg repeatedly.

A male officer says to the girl: "It can be over if you put your leg in the car. Is it really worth it?"

Someone off-camera pleads to the officers: "You are punching a child!"

About a minute after the punching began, the girl says "weak ass ************* can't even put my leg in," and continues to extend it.

That carries on for about another 20, 25 seconds. By the 7:00 mark, the girl is in the vehicle, and the door is closed.

Officer Howley gets into the first vehicle, with the arrested male, who asks that she roll a window down. 

She refuses, and according to the officer, who requests someone to ride with her, he begins kicking the window.

Eventually, though, she cracks the window a bit, and starts en route toward a juvenile detention center.

At about the 10:30 mark, Officer Howley, leaving the neighborhood, tells dispatch that "we've got a mess out here."