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'We're not stupid': Video shows cops scolding UM's Zavier Simpson for providing fake name

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan senior guard Zavier Simpson was told he could be arrested for lying to police when he was questioned during an early morning car incident last month.

Simpson wrecked a 2011 Toyota RAV4 that belonged to Chrislan Manuel, the wife of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, while driving in downtown Ann Arbor around 3 a.m. on Jan. 26.

UM's Zavier Simpson shown in Ann Arbor police body-camera footage.

Police dash- and body-camera footage obtained by The Detroit News through a Freedom of Information Act request show Simpson providing a false name, changing his story and eventually admitting the SUV was loaned out to student-athletes by basketball student manager Evan Manuel, the AD's son.

When officers Jordan Gawronski and Jeffrey Shafer first arrived on the scene at the corner of Hill Street and South Forest Avenue, dashboard video shows three people — two men and one woman — near the SUV that had struck a utility pole and had its passenger side door open.

Body-cam footage shows an officer asking the group who the vehicle belongs to and the other man points to Simpson. Simpson said it’s not his car and that he was walking to East Quad to his girlfriend’s house.

“I’m not sure, but the kid ran down the block there,” Simpson said.

The man and woman said they didn’t see what had happened, and they were also just walking by.

When the officer asked Simpson for his name, he said “Jeff” for the first name and “Jackson” for the middle name. When asked for his last name, Simpson replied, “Um, Simpson.”

“Like the basketball player?” the officer asked.

“Yeah,” Simpson said.

When the officer returned to the patrol vehicle, he asked his partner if he recognized the man as Zavier Simpson. The other officer acknowledged it looked like him before the first officer pulled up a photo of Simpson on his phone to confirm it.

The first officer asked his partner to come back out with him in case Simpson tried to run off. The officers addressed Simpson by his real first name when one of them asked if he was in the car.

“Me? No, I wasn’t,” Simpson said. “I seen it coming though.”

When asked why he initially lied about his name, Simpson said he didn’t want to get involved in the crash report.

“You don’t think we know you? We’re not stupid,” one officer said. “You can’t lie to a police officer about your name. That’s against the law actually.”

“Yeah, I know that,” Simpson said.

“We can arrest you for that,” the officer tells Simpson.

Ann Arbor Police Lt. Renee Bush told The Detroit News earlier this month Simpson wasn’t cited for lying to officers because “people lie to us every day.” Bush added she wished there were “citations for us to give to people for lying, but we don’t.”

“That's why we do investigations to find out what the truth is and that's how we do it,” Bush said. “We have to verify information. That's what we were doing.

“People don't tell the truth for a variety of reasons and in this particular case I don't know why he didn't tell the truth.”

In another body-cam video, Simpson told an officer he didn't know who was driving but, “I definitely have an idea of who was driving.”

The officer asked Simpson who was driving and the officer told him he knew he wasn’t the driver because he was too tall for the seat position.

“If you’re in the car, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter,” the officer said. “I’m trying to find out who was driving and whose car it was.”

Simpson said the car belonged to Evan Manuel because he recognized the UConn sticker in the back. Simpson added Manuel “lets pretty much anyone drive his car” and he knew Manuel wasn’t driving, but didn’t explain how he knew that.

Simpson told the officers he was in the car earlier in the day but “not in the past hour.”

When asked again who he thought was driving, Simpson said, “I don’t know because he lets anyone use his car from anyone on the basketball team to the baseball team.”

According to the police report, Shafer observed Simpson, 23, stumble a couple times as he was walking around the outside of the vehicle. None of the dash-cam or body-cam footage obtained by The News shows Simpson stumble.

The officers also reported there was no odor of intoxicants on Simpson’s breath and Simpson didn’t have any slurred speech in any of the footage. According to Bush, Simpson was never given a Breathalyzer test because there was no indication of alcohol on his breath and the police couldn’t determine who the driver of the vehicle was at the time.

When the officers returned to their patrol vehicle, one of them wondered aloud why Simpson was still lingering around the car.

“If you’re not involved, why are you still here?” one officer said.

The other officer said he didn’t think Manuel was in the vehicle during the crash and that Simpson was in the car with a female because of how close the seat was to the steering wheel.

“Why is he still here? If it ain’t my car — that’s what I don’t understand,” the officer said.

The SUV was totaled, an officer said in one of the body-cam videos, and was eventually towed away.

Officers were eventually able to determine through Chrislan Manuel, the registered owner of the car, and her son, Evan, that Simpson was the driver.

According to the police report, an officer was assigned to follow up on the crash incident Feb. 4. The next day, Simpson agreed to meet with the officer at the university’s student legal services. During that meeting, Simpson said he lost control of the vehicle on a patch of ice before striking the utility pole and was the only passenger in the car, according to the report.

Simpson received a civil infraction for driving too fast for road conditions and, according to 15th District Court online records, he has fully paid a $130 fine.

One day after the crash, Simpson was suspended by coach Juwan Howard for a “violation of team policies” on Jan. 27. Howard later revealed on Feb. 7 Simpson violated the team’s curfew.

After missing the Jan. 28 road contest at Nebraska, Simpson was reinstated on Jan. 31 before Michigan’s game against Rutgers at Madison Square Garden.

"We all make mistakes,” Simpson, who has a history of speeding on his Ohio driving record, said earlier this month. “I made a mistake. I owned up to it, apologized to my teammates, my family, my friends and also the fans.

“I'm just glad that I'm safe and no one else was involved. … A situation like that, things could've got worse. I'm just blessed to be here, so thank God for that.”

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins