Protesters question amount of force used in arrest
Grosse Pointe Park — Protesters Wednesday outside the headquarters of the Department of Public Safety questioned "whether excessive force was used" by area police officers videotaped hitting and kicking a carjacking suspect in Detroit.
"We are on a peace mission ... this is the kind of thing that can incite something," said Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, who was joined by a dozen other protesters.
The coalition called for criminal and civil charges plus the suspension of the officers from a multijurisdictional task force involved in the incident, which occurred Monday morning on Plainview, near McNichols and Evergreen.
The video of the arrest, which was recorded by Detroit resident Emma Craig on Monday on the city's northwest side and posted on Facebook, shows two officers beating the suspect identified as Andrew Jackson Jr. while apparently trying to handcuff him, and administering more blows after his hands were secured behind his back.
At the rally, Scott described the incident as "almost a wolf pack attack."
The stolen car task force in question, ACTION, includes officers from Grosse Pointe Park, Detroit, Warren, Harper Woods and Highland Park and is paid for by a Grosse Pointe Park police grant. Beyond one officer from Highland Park, it was not clear which other police agencies were involved in Monday's arrest; the officers were in plain clothes.
The Michigan Department of Corrections said Jackson, 51, is a parole absconder. State records show Jackson was convicted in 2004 of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, assault with intent to rob while armed and fleeing a police officer.
An arrest warrant was approved in April after Jackson missed a meeting with his parole officer and officials learned he was not living at the address Corrections had listed for him, spokesman Chris Gautz said.
Jackson was being held Tuesday by Grosse Pointe Park police on parole violation charges, Gautz said. He could get up to 60 months for the parole violation.
The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office has received a warrant request from the task force for the suspect, spokeswoman Maria Miller said Wednesday afternoon.
"The warrant is currently being reviewed and the process will not be completed today," Miller said.
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality also announced Wednesday it would conduct its own investigation. It has called for intervention from public officials, including U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and U.S. Reps. John Conyers of Dearborn and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield.
"These kinds of task forces should be investigated to consider suspension of federal funds until civil and human rights issues in these matters are resolved," Scott said.
During Wednesday's rally, Grosse Pointe Park resident Andrew Morlon had a brief conversation with Scott, asking if it "made any difference that Jackson had just carjacked somebody."
Scott stopped briefly, then said he didn't want to get into a debate.
Morlon acknowledged the video "looked bad" but said it was being "blown out of proportion."
"I think without the narration of the woman who shot the video, we'd have a different perspective," Morlon said. "And what happened before the video is important."
Morlon said there is a perception of racial animosity between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit "based on a few isolated incidents."
"It seems like the media is looking for another Ferguson," Morlon said. "There is police brutality, but some people are looking for it where it doesn't exist."
Before the protest, Grosse Pointe Park Police Sgt. Jeff Longo briefly spoke with Scott. He said Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Director David Hiller would have no comment on the rally because of the investigation into the incident.
Scott said he understood but said he wanted to speak with Hiller at a later date to discuss the overall issue of the relationship between Grosse Pointe Park police and the African-American community.
Grosse Pointe Park police made headlines in 2013 over a video incident that critics said was racially insensitive.
In November 2013, five Grosse Pointe Park police officers were suspended for two months for their involvement in the controversial videotaping of a mentally impaired African-American man.
Three low-resolution cellphone videos showed a man singing and making odd noises.
The man said the recordings "made me feel like a fool." The police department underwent sensitivity training to focus on dealing with people with mental disorders.
Dawud Walid, director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Michigan Chapter, said a prayer Wednesday at the rally in which he "thanked God for creating cellphones to capture incidents of police misconduct."
On Tuesday, Hiller defended the officers from Monday's incident.
"We're looking at it, and we believe the officers' actions were proper," Hiller said. "In effecting the arrest, they had to kick to get his arms free because he was going for his gun, which was in his waistband."
On Tuesday, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said there may have been a DPD supervisor at the scene who could have been a witness. But in a statement later, Craig clarified that no officers were from Detroit. The video does show a Detroit Police car at the scene after the suspect was handcuffed and standing. Craig also said he had not seen a statement released earlier by the ACTION task force that bore his name, as well those of other chiefs involved in the task force.
"There were no DPD officers at the scene at the time of the arrest and I did not intend to express any opinion on the actions of the officers involved," Craig said in the statement.
But Scott said Wednesday he believes that one of the officers at Jackson's arrest was from Detroit, despite the statement from Craig.
According to Hiller, task force officers were tracking a vehicle that had been carjacked two hours earlier.
"This subject was a parole absconder wanted for an armed robbery in Detroit. He was armed with a handgun," Hiller said.
In that incident, police say the suspect pointed a gun at a mother and her two children and ordered them out of the vehicle, threatening to shoot. The officers followed the vehicle to the area of McNichols and Evergreen, where it pulled into a driveway. The officers attempted an arrest, but the suspect ran for a quarter-mile before being tackled.
"The subject resisted arrest and in an attempt to restrain him an officer deployed a Taser," according to a police statement. "However, it failed to take effect due to the subject's heavy clothing. The subject continue(d) to reach for the area of his waist band and refused all orders to show his hands.
"He curled up in a ball and his right hand again went under his clothing. Fearing for their safety and those in the immediate area, an officer delivered a kick to the thigh area of the subject thus allowing the other officers the ability to arrest the subject. Located in his waist band was a loaded semi-automatic handgun."
According to the video, a search of the handcuffed man around the 5:15 mark shows police finding the handgun on the suspect.
"There, there's the pistol right there," says one officer.
"They found a pistol on this guy," said the woman recording the search. "They just took the clip out."
Early in the 9 minute, 30 second video, one officer swings at the man seven times while the other officer delivers two kicks.
"Give me your arm," one officer orders before apparently handcuffing the man. The officer then rears back and delivers another blow.
At one point, the suspect calls upon Jesus.
What did you say?" asks the officer, who kneels on the suspect's back and apparently cuffs him on the back of his head.
"Jesus? You're calling Jesus? You (expletive)! Don't you dare. Don't you (expletive) dare!" the officer says.
The physical response by the officers is over by the 1 minute mark of the video, after which two officers can be seen giving each other a fist bump. After appearing motionless on the ground, the man is eventually stood up and searched.
"That's a justified (expletive) whipping," a female officer says.
Hiller added Tuesday the suspect didn't shoot at the officers.
On Tuesday, Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw confirmed the agency would investigate the incident. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy had requested state police involvement and indicated she would be "actively monitoring" the investigation, according to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Ron Craig, 26, said his mother, Emma Craig, shot the video from her front door on Plainview. Emma Craig was not home when The Detroit News interviewed her son Tuesday afternoon.
"He was in handcuffs," Craig said as he stood near the spot where police had the suspect on the ground. "You had him captured. He was no threat."
"It's not a race issue, it's a humanitarian issue," he said.