Police officers in Grand Rapids who stopped wrong vehicle, forcibly arrested a black man exonerated by city after he was caught by police
GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- The Grand Rapids police officers who stopped and forcibly arrested a man they believed was someone else have been exonerated by the Internal Affairs Unit of the department.
According to a report recently obtained by MLive/The Grand Rapids Press through occlusion requests, two officers were justified in initiating the May 2 traffic stop on the city's Southeast Side, while another three officers had been justified with their use of force during the arrest.
Although police arrested the wrong person, city officials charged him with assault, battery, resisting, or obstructing a police officer -- he may face up to 90 days in jail and/or upto if convicted of causing retaliation. According to the Internal Affairs report, the man resisted officers as they tried to arrest him.
After four hours of community service, he returned to the scene during the city's diversion program, the charge against him was dismissed on Sept. 1th. City officials couldn't tell if the arrest or charge will appear on a criminal record search, but they claim there is no criminal conviction as alleged in the incident.
The misidentified man later told police that if officers had asked for his identification during the traffic stop, the incident could have been avoided. According to the IAU reports, police said the misnamed person may have escaped.
Police said they asked for his name at least twice before receiving an answer, according to IAU investigators. This occurred during a high-risk traffic stop where police had guns drawn on the vehicle and were positioned more than merely if they were standing near the drivers side window.
Officers treated it as a high-risk traffic stop since they were searching for alleged suspect who had pointed arrows at people before fleeing. The only thing the man shared in common with the suspect was that he was Black driving a silver four-door pickup, which tampering sparked unauthorized police identification. The men were wearing different colors in different colours.
The incident occurred while nearby relatives and friends watched the man shouting at officers that they were arresting the wrong person in a video of the incident.
The exoneration of officers is another example of the Grand Rapids Police Departments internal accountability system that needs reform, according to Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack.
He said city officials are more concerned about ensuring they won't be sued than about officer being held accountable.
I believe these are some excellent officers who made a mistake -- good people make mistakes -- but its our job downtown to hold these individuals accountable and steer them on the right path, Womack said. It creates a danger for the community and police by not being held accountable by them. Because everybody knows what happens (in Internal Affairs), this is all that will happen.
In Internal Affairs, there is no justice for Black people downtown as a whole, in Internal affairs.
Related: After a black man was caught forcibly in custody while police stopped the wrong vehicle, police asked the police not to stop the vehicle because they were unable to assist the GRPD.
When he posted cellphone footage of it to his Facebook page, Womack, who represents a portion of the city's Southeast Side on the county commission, referred to the incident several months ago. He stated that officers need more training to ensure that these misidentifiements are corrected without escalation.
Womack stated, This is atrocious. They have the right to stop him then, but you dont have to treat him like a criminal until you find out something different. Black men in America are much more at risk of it. I'm sure that police relations will be improved. I don't hate defunding police because I'm not a fan of definancing police. But its these kinds of situations that stir the pot in the community, and they ask, Should we have police in our community or not?.
The incident took place around 6:40 p.m. Soon after the dispatching to a residence where he pointed hats at people, officers arrived on May 2nd at oxford. Witnesses told police that the suspect, who was also Black, drove off in a silver four-door pickup.
While officers spoke with witnesses, one identified a passing silver four-door pickup as the one the suspect had driven off in. Officers stopped the truck about a mile away after it wasparked in the driveway of he residence in 1800 block of Willard Avenue SE after asking the witness multiple times if they were sure.
They didnt know that the man driving that truck was picking up his wife for his mother-in-laws wake and had no relation to the incident.
He and his wife missed the wake because he was caught and bonded out that evening on charges of resisting and obstruction of a police officer. He had no drugs or guns on him, nor warrants for his arrest.
After four hours of community service, MLive is not naming the man who was misidentified and arrested.
Officers had guns drawn on the vehicle and gave him commands to exit the truck without an answer from the man who said he wasn't the person officers were searching. The man asked officers if he was being held in prison.
The IAU report states that officers had acted in accordance with policy and under reasonable belief that the man in the vehicle had committed the criminal assault and, without any response from the driver stating otherwise, took that belief to conduct a legitimate traffic stop.
Familie and friends who attended the incident took a video of Womack's incident.
While it doesnt capture the whole incident, as officers, police cruisers, and foliage are blocking a portion of it, it does show the arrested man walking backward and sometimes sideways toward police with his hands on his head.
He then drops to his knees -- an order by officers -- but turns toward them rather than depart with his hands down, something officers wrote in their report was a blatant disregard of commands. Officers noted in their report that the man was distracted by the nearby crowd.
He stood up as one of the officers arrived to arrest him as he one was carrying in. Officers say he started to think about them when il refused to stop them.
According to IAU documents, the man told officers after the incident that he was down until they were rushing to him, as if they would tackle me, or kick me or something so I stood back up. It was reported by IAU investigators as a violation of jurisprudence.
After he stood up, an officer grabbed his arm and the pair briefly spun around, before another officer moved in, touching his other arm. Both officers struck him with their knees to get him to drop to the ground.
The man was taken to the ground and handcuffed moments later.
The IAU report concludes that officers used very little force in comparison to the resistance level they received. The force officers used were trained techniques and objectively reasonable based on the exactity of the circumstances.
Womack described the incident as a last straw and said he plans to march with activist group Justice for Black Lives at saturday's protest. That protest is being held over a recent viral arrest of another Black man by GRPD.
It's sad that the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability hasn't been given the entire power to deal with situations like this, he said. Because we haven't been able to find justice in this system when everything else fails, you have the people marching, protesting and seeking for justice from the City Hall, searching for the police department, because we'vent gone through justice within this organization.
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