Man beaten by officer with baton at Detroit Meijer shares his side of story

David Bivins says officer's beating was 'relentless'

DETROIT – A man who was seen on video being beaten by a Detroit police officer with a baton outside a Meijer store at Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road shared his side of the story with Local 4.

"He's just continuously swinging at me," David Bivins said. "I'm asking, 'Why? Give me a reason. Why are you doing this?' The whole time he's just shouting, 'I told you. I told you. You know what you did.'"

Bivins said the beating was relentless. The off-duty Detroit police officer was working security Sunday evening at the store.

Bivins was accused of shoplifting by two off-duty officers. He said even after he showed his receipt, the officer kept coming at him in the doorway and outside the store.

He said the officer knocked out and damaged eight teeth and broke his jaw with a baton.

"My entire front, from canine to canine, are gone," Bivins said. "I am missing a tooth on the bottom. They're fractured. They still feel like they are loose and they might fall out. I don't know."

Bivins said Sunday started as a nice night out for him and his girlfriend, Hillary Ross. They ate and bought a few items at Meijer. He said they paid and headed toward the bus stop, and when Ross went to the restroom, Bivins was approached.

He said the rest was a nightmare.

"He was continuously coming toward me, advancing towards me," Bivins said.

Bivins said he never resisted or engaged the officer. He said he was afraid he was going to lose his life.

"I'm terrified," Bivins said. "All I know is I heard the sound and my heart is racing. I don't know if that's a gun. I could hear it. ... I knew from the moment this was wrong. I had done nothing."

The couple was out celebrating the birth of their daughter, Aurora, who had been born six days earlier. She weighed one pound and was in the NICU.

"She is extremely tiny and she is fighting," Ross said. "She is fighting."

Ross said she had the receipt when the two Meijer security guards approached Bivins.

"I let them know I am returning these items," Ross said. "I am embarrassed. I was shocked. I felt like I was accused of something. I've never done a day in my life."

Bivins said Ross was returning the items when the officer went through his bags from a different store, which wasn't Meijer-related. That's when the beating began and spilled outside the store.

The couple hired Attorney Geoffrey Fieger. They're preparing a lawsuit against Meijer. Fieger alleges Bivins was mistreated in jail, rushed into an arraignment and charged with disorderly conduct.

The officer, Lonnie Wade, 65, turned in a complaint, misspelling Bivins' name and accusing him of creating an "improper diversion."

Fieger said Meijer is responsible for the off-duty officer.

"It is the only way they will ever answer for what they did to David and Hillary," Fieger said.

"We have reviewed the video of the incident," Meijer said in a statement. "We’ve since provided the Detroit Police Department access to all security footage and have fully cooperated with them as they investigate this incident involving their officer."

Prosecutor's office returns resisting warrant against Bivins

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office returned the Detroit Police Department's request for a warrant of resisting and obstructing for Bivins.

The incident prompted claims of police brutality after cellphone video circulated social media. Bivins was taken into custody for disorderly conduct and resisting and obstruction.

Detroit police Chief James Craig held a news conference Monday evening as the cell phone video continued to be shared across social media. The Detroit Police Department released surveillance video Tuesday from inside the store showing the moments before and after the incident.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy returned the police's warrant request for further investigation.

The Wayne County Circuit Court entered a writ of habeas corpus Monday directing that Bivins be released. However, the City of Detroit Law Department charged Bivins with disorderly conduct, according to the man's attorney.

What happened

Ross said they were shopping Sunday at the Meijer store at Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road. When they left, loss protection employees approached them.

“We walked into the Meijer, went shopping like normal, purchased our items,” Ross said. “We did come in with outside bags from another store. We did emphasize to keep them separate that way they could see.”

According to Ross, it was quickly discovered that the items were not stolen and she returned the items immediately after the embarrassment of being accused of stealing. When she returned, her boyfriend was being struck with a baton.

Watch the new surveillance video released by police below:

A crowd gathered in the immediate area of the altercation.

Watch the cell phone video which circulated social media:

"That was just wrong," Ross said.

In another video shot by Ross, the officer said he arrested the man for his use of profanity.

“I tried to get him to shut up,” the officer said in the video.

Watch the cell phone video shot by Ross below:

Chief Craig calls use of force 'appropriate'

Detroit police Chief James Craig responded to the police brutality claims Monday.

Craig said the officer involved in the arrest is a 39-year veteran of the Detroit police force and was working off-duty as a security guard at the store. The 65-year-old officer was in uniform at the time. Craig said the department calls it "secondary employment."

The officer was not wearing a body camera because he was not on duty.

Craig called the incident a "quick escalation from what initially turned out to be active resisting to active aggression."

The chief said the force used during the arrest was appropriate, proper and reasonable. He said the officer’s report claimed Bivins was “very agitated.”

Craig said Bivins does not have an arrest record.

Craig forwarded warrant requests to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which were denied Tuesday.

Authorities said the investigation is ongoing.

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About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.