$25 million lawsuit filed on behalf of man beaten by officer with baton at Meijer store in Detroit

Chief Craig recommends no charges against victim

By John Steckroth - Editor , Shawn Ley - Reporter , Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - A $25 million lawsuit was filed against several defendants including Meijer after a man man who was wrongly accused of retail fraud was beaten by a Detroit police officer with a baton and the police chief asked prosecutors not to file charges against the victim.

Detroit police Chief James Craig discussed the case at a news conference Monday reversing his initial reaction he made after a preliminary review of the videos.

Craig said that after reviewing the evidence several times, he has made a recommendation to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office not to charge the victim with disorderly conduct or resisting and obstructing.

The lawsuit was filed against Meijer, Detroit police Officer Lonnie Wade, three Meijer security guards and another DPD officer. Wade has been put on administrative duty and was suspended from secondary employment at Meijer. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing the case to see if Wade will face charges.

“This unjustified and intolerable attack was documented on video both inside and outside the store. I call upon the powers that be to bring charges against the assailant. At trial, I will ask the jury to punish the defendants for their conduct in the form of punitive damages in an amount in excess of $25 million dollars," attorney Geoffrey Fieger said. 

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the victim alleges false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, libel/slander/false light invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution, and negligence.

Chief Craig recommends no charges against victim

Detroit police Chief James Craig said during a news conference Monday that he made a recommendation to the Wayne County prosecutor's office not to file charges against the victim.

Craig said that an officer's role in secondary employment is "one of visibility and support." He said that each secondary employment contract is different, but the one the department has with Meijer specifies that an officer would not initiate contact with a subject in the case of a suspected theft. That procedure was not followed.

The chief also said there was no indication of de-escalation on the part of the officer. 

“There was no indication at the initial contact with the officer, that the subject was hostile,” Craig said. “He had his hands down to his side. We don’t know he was saying. He could have been using profanity. That in and of itself does not warrant an officer using force.”

What happened

Bivins was shopping Sunday at the Meijer store at Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road with his fiancée. When they left, loss protection employees approached them.

It was quickly discovered that the items were not stolen and Bivins' fiancée returned the items she just bought after the embarrassment of being accused of stealing. When she returned, Bivins 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:

In another video shot by his fiancée, Hillary 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:

Bivins shares his side of story

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

"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 night started out as a nice night out for him and his fiancée. It was the first night out they had since the birth of their first child, Aurora, who had been born six days earlier. She weighed one pound and was in the NICU.

He said the rest of the evening was a nightmare.

"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 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."

"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."

The couple hired Attorney Geoffrey Fieger.

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.

"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.

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.

Chief Craig initially calls use of force 'appropriate'

Detroit police Chief James Craig responded to the police brutality claims Oct. 9.

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 after a preliminary review of the evidence. 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 and they were returned.

Authorities said the investigation is ongoing.

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