Police in western Michigan have released bodycam video showing officers arresting three men suspected of littering in a parking lot, and punching and wrestling one of them to the ground after he tried to flee from his vehicle.
The videos from March 26 were posted Thursday to the Grand Rapids police Facebook page following requests under the Freedom of Information Act, according to the department.
Police said four guns were recovered during the traffic stop.
In one video, the driver of the car that was stopped repeatedly refuses orders to step from the vehicle before lunging across the front seat toward the open passenger door where he is wrestled to the ground by other officers.
One officer can be seen punching the man around his face and head as another tells the man to “stop resisting, you’re grabbing at him.”
The man repeatedly yells “I can’t breathe.” An officer can be heard saying “you’re breathing right here. I’m watching you.”
People protesting police brutality against Blacks following the slaying last May of George Floyd by white and now former-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin have chanted “I can’t breathe” in demonstrations across the country.
Bystander video of Floyd’s death caught him gasping and saying “I can’t breathe” as Chauvin pressed a knee to the Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes.
A jury convicted Chauvin April 20 of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said in a release Thursday that use of force by officers in any manner “can be disturbing for the public to see.”
“I also feel very strongly that my officers exhibit tremendous discretion in determining when force is required, and that they use the verbal commands and de-escalation techniques they have been trained on before resorting to physical engagement or other use of force,” Payne said.
During the struggle to subdue the driver, “the officer believed that the suspect was attempting to take possession of his firearm,” he added. “Hand strikes to the face were used to stop attempts by the suspect to disarm the officer.”
Payne said officers were conducting surveillance on the area where the littering occurred due to violent crime there over the past year which includes six stolen vehicles or police pursuits, 15 assaults, 15 calls for shots fired, 19 offenses involving weapons and 56 arrests.
During the March 26 arrests, police bodycam video shows what appears to be a gun taken from the waistband of the man in the rear seat as he was being arrested. Another gun was found on the ground where the driver was wrestled down.
While handcuffed and sitting in the rear of a police vehicle, the driver refused to answer when asked if he had concealed pistol license. He did respond after the officer asked if he needed medical assistance.
“I need to see an ambulance,” the man said. “Ya'll beat me up. I can't feel my face. I can barely breathe. My chest hurts.”
The officer responds, “cause you were grabbing at people's guns, sir.”
“I didn't never grab nobody's gun. Stop lying,” the driver said. “I didn't grab nobody's waist. Ya'll lying."
Diabete Hood is charged with attempted disarming of a police officer, carrying a concealed weapon, and resisting/obstructing a police officer, police said Friday.
Tyrone Bynum, Hood's attorney, said his client and the other men in the car were racially profiled by the officers.
“What precipitated this situation? They said my client’s passenger littered,” Bynum said. “You get pulled over for a civil infraction? I’ve asked for every single bodycam video from every officer on that night.”
Lamount Deshawn Nelson is charged with littering and carrying a concealed weapon, while Ruben Cabrera is charged with carrying a concealed weapon, possession of methamphetamine, possession with intent to deliver analogues and possession with intent to deliver marijuana.
Payne said the department’s Internal Affairs Unit has been ordered to conduct a review of the traffic stop and the officers’ actions.
“I will not protect officers who abuse their authority or dishonor the badge,” he said. “I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my officers when they encounter dangerous situations and conduct themselves professionally, safely, and with integrity.”
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.