Detroit, MI — A Detroit police officer has come under fire after video was posted online that shows him beating an innocent man with a baton after accusing him of shoplifting—but the city’s police chief says the force was justified and the officer “acted appropriately.”
The 65-year-old officer, who has not yet been named, was off-duty at the time of the incident and was still in uniform while working security for a local Meijer supermarket. He claimed he was responding to reports of shoplifting.
The officer apprehended a 23-year-old man who was near the entryway of the store and began questioning him about the items in his backpack. As The Detroit Free Press noted, even after “a female acquaintance of the suspect meanwhile, showed up and claimed she had a receipt for the merchandise. She was taken elsewhere by security personnel.”
Failing to acknowledge whether the piece of paper in the woman’s hand was, in fact, a receipt for the items in the man’s backpack, the officer continued to question him, while the two were left alone in the store’s entryway. Police reports claim that the man then “became agitated and made profane, hostile remarks to the officer.”
The officer also made profane remarks and could be heard by witnesses yelling “Don’t be f—king with me!” at the suspect.
After the officer warned the man that he could be arrested for disorderly conduct, he attempted to place the man in handcuffs, and when the man resisted, the officer “struck him three times on the thigh with his baton.”
Police claim that the man then grabbed the baton from the officer and a struggle ensued as the officer tried to regain control of the weapon, which led the two out to the parking lot. However, bystander video shows the officer trying to grab ahold of the man with one hand, while using his other hand to strike the man repeatedly with the baton.
The officer also hit the man’s face and head with his baton, which sent the man to the Emergency Room, where he was treated for a broken tooth and a contusion at the side of his face.
In a statement, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that although the officer was off-duty at the time of the incident, “he is subject to all the rules and regulations of the Detroit Police Department and we are treating this as a Detroit police incident.”
As with many “Detroit police incidents,” Craig was quick to defend the officer’s actions, claiming that “it appears the force was proper,” even when the officer used his baton to strike the man’s face.
“I can understand that, if you’re stopped and you’ve done nothing wrong, you’re going to be agitated,” Craig said. “But this officer had the right to investigate, based on the information that was coming to him. So please, I would ask everyone, cooperate with us.”
There were several bystanders who witnessed the incident, and they can be heard on video making comments such as, “that officer can go to jail, hitting that boy like that,” which Chief Craig claims was enough to make the officer “fear for his safety”—a common excuse used by police when they are caught using excessive force.
“I believe the officer acted appropriately to de-escalate the situation,” Craig said, noting that the man was eventually arrested, and is in jail on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
It should be noted, as Craig admitted, that an investigation found no evidence of the man shoplifting anything from the store. This means that if the officer would have taken the time to listen to the woman who tried to intercept the situation with a receipt that proved the man’s innocence, the entire incident could have actually been “de-escalated” and ultimately avoided.
Watch the video captured by a witness below: