DETROIT – Two men are suing the Detroit Police Department, claiming officers used excessive force during a violent arrest that was caught on video at a gas station on the city's east side.
On Friday, the men held a news conference to tell their side of the story for the first time since the video emerged.
According to the attorney for Detroit residents D’Marco Craft and Michaele Jackson, the video is enough proof that police used excessive force during the arrest, but Chief James Craig said there's much more to the story, including a second video of the confrontation that has yet to be released.
Craft said he had a run-in with the officer in the video. He said the minute he saw Officer Richard Billingslea, he knew trouble was ahead. He started recording with his phone as Jackson was wrestled to the ground.
Jackson is a bus driver for the Detroit Department of Transportation.
Craft and Jackson said the officers were abusive and aggressive toward them without provocation. But Craig said there's another video that shows Jackson taking a swing at one of the officers.
Federal lawsuit filed
A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the city in connection to the arrest, which took place in May.
Officers Billingslea and Hakeem Patterson, of the Detroit police 5th Precinct, and the city of Detroit are named as defendants in the suit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury.
Craft and Jackson claim the officers were caught on camera assaulting and unlawfully arresting Jackson when they went to a gas station on Harper Avenue to buy cigarettes on May 31. The video, shot by Craft, shows officers throw Jackson to the ground as he is verbally abused. The officers appear to be making an arrest, but Jackson is released and they let him off the ground.
Jackson left the gas station and the officers followed him out to the gas pumps. Craft continued to record as Jackson circled the gas pumps and officers followed.
Jackson entered the gas station again. The video doesn’t show what happened initially, but it captured the officer breaking out his Mace. After Jackson was Maced, officers can be seen in the video kicking and punching him.
Watch the video here:
The lawsuit accuses the officers of:
- Use of excessive force
- Unlawful arrest
- Unlawful seizure (against only Billingslea)
- Unlawful search (against only Billingslea)
- Unlawfully preventing a person from recording police in a public place
- Conversion of plaintiff's cellphone
- Assault and battery
- Violation of civil rights (against the city of Detroit)
Officer's report indicates force needed to make arrest
The police report written by Billingslea indicates that he was attempting to place Jackson under arrest, but was unable to without the use of force.
Jackson was arrested while Craft was released at the scene. Jackson was not released from custody until June 2. He spent 63 hours in custody. Neither man was ever charged with a crime.
The suit also claims Billingslea took Craft's cellphone and slammed it on the gas station counter top, smashing the screen. Furthermore, the officer also threw the cellphone in a garbage container at the gas station, according to the lawsuit. A different police officer later retrieved the phone and placed it into evidence. Craft later retrieved the cellphone from police.
Craft and Jackson are being represented by Southfield-based attorneys Solomon M. Radner and Ari Kresch.
“The police report is clearly a fabrication and is in direct conflict with the footage from Mr. Craft’s cell phone. It’s outrageous that the officers who are supposed to protect the rights of their citizens behave in such an unwarranted, aggressive and cruel manner,” Radner said in a news release.
The news release from Radner and Kresch also alleges Billingslea and Patterson violated the Detroit Police Department's policy on pursuing suspects back in 2015. The officers allegedly were chasing a man who crashed June 24, 2015 and killed two young children.
Detroit police chief offers comment
Craig held a news conference Thursday to discuss the video. Craig said the man threw a punch before he was Maced and that it was captured on store surveillance. The chief said the store surveillance video will not be released due to a pending criminal investigation.
"Force is only used to overcome resistance," Craig said. "In a perfect scenario, we would want to be able to take someone into custody without using any force."
The officer is on restricted duty as the Wayne County prosecutor considers handing down charges.
Here is the full lawsuit filed Aug. 22, 2017:
The incident happened at the Mobil gas station on Harper Avenue on Detroit's east side. Here's a look at the exact location: