Detroit officer sentenced for excessive force caught on camera at gas station

Richard Billingslea entered no contest plea

DETROIT – This entire case is centered around cellphone video from inside a Detroit gas station. 

It led to an excessive force allegation and civil lawsuit that wrapped up on Friday.

It happened May 31, 2017 at a Mobil gas station on Harper Avenue in Detroit. The officer shown on video throwing a man to the ground is Richard Billingslea. He used pepper spray on the man then threw him to the ground. 

It's still unclear what exactly led up to the altercation. Video from the gas station shows the men circling around gas pumps. Some say the man, Michaele Jackson, took a swing at the officer. Others say there was an ongoing dispute between the two. 

Watch the video here:

Either way, Wayne County prosecutors felt this was too much and charged Billingslea with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, aggravated assault, obstruction of justice, and assault and battery.

The case was headed to trial but Billingslea opted for a no contest plea. 

He was sentenced Friday to two years probation. He will be required to take an anger management course, and will not be allowed to own or use a weapon.

Billingslea can no longer work in law enforcement, and is not allowed to have contact with the victims.

Richard Billingslea is arraigned on assault charges on Dec. 21, 2017. (WDIV)
Richard Billingslea is arraigned on assault charges on Dec. 21, 2017. (WDIV)


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 another man, D’Marco Craft, shown on the video 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. 

A civil lawsuit 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 were 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. 

A statement 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

Detroit Police James Craig held a news conference to discuss the video from inside the gas station. Craig said the man threw a punch before he was Maced and that it was captured on store surveillance. 

"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."

Billingslea was first placed on desk duty before being terminated from the police force. 

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