Grand Rapids, MI — Dramatic body camera footage released this week shows a Grand Rapids Police Officer holding the muzzle of his AR-15 rifle to the head of an unarmed man who was subdued, in a seeming attempt to torment him. On Tuesday, after they investigated themselves, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said—in spite of the glaring violation of rights caught on video—no charges will be filed against the officer.
"Placing the barrel of a gun on the head of a suspect being arrested is completely inappropriate, offensive, and against any training protocol put out by the Grand Rapids Police Department or any other department in Kent County," Becker said in a statement on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
However, despite the officer's actions being all those things, he will not face any legal consequences.
The incident happened on August 19 and appeared to be a case of mistaken identity. That night, officers were responding to a call of an alleged armed robbery and when they showed up they saw a 28-year-old homeless man who fit the description.
According to the report, the man was drunk and refused to cooperate by lowering and raising his hands. So, Sgt. Neil Gomez then deployed his taser and the man was immediately brought to the ground.
From this point forward, it should've been a simple procedure: place him and handcuffs and determine that he is not the man they are looking for.
However, that is not what happened. Instead, Officer Kevin Penn—seemingly drunk on his sadistic authority—began digging the muzzle of his rifle into the suspects head, tormenting him physically and verbally.
"Former Officer Penn took it one step further," Becker wrote. "He put the barrel of his gun to the suspect's head. ... He indicated to investigators when interviewed he felt he had to place the gun there for fear of possibly hitting the other officers due to close proximity if he did have to fire, and to try and control the individual's head as he was not complying with commands. This once again is nothing police are trained in, nor something that an officer is supposed to do, but the behavior does not rise to the level of a criminal offense under this set of facts."
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When watching the video, the idea that this officer's behavior does not rise to a criminal offense is as insulting as it is asinine.
"The suspect makes a crying noise, and states, 'That hurts bro,' and Officer Penn immediately responds with, 'Yes it does,'" according to an Internal Affairs report, obtained by MLive under a Freedom of Information request.
"The muzzle is still pressed against the suspect's head and Officer (James) Smith tells Officer Penn, 'All right Kevin' and pushes the rifle away from the suspect's head with his head," an Internal Affairs report said.
"As Officer Penn moves back, the suspect continues asking what he did and states, 'Man, that hurted man. ...'"
The report stated and the video confirmed that the muzzle of the rifle was used to force the suspect's head down. Luckily Penn did not kill the otherwise entirely innocent man.
The suspect was then arrested on the standard 'resisting arrest' charges and later released on his own recognizance. Because he was drunk, the suspect did not remember the incident, which is likely the reason he never filed a complaint. However, after the release of this video, all that may change once an attorney sees the possibility of such an open and shut case.
"We do not condone the behavior of the officer, nor should this been seen as approval for this technique in the future," Becker wrote. "It is simply under these specific facts we are not charging the former officer ... ."
The silver lining to this incident is, although Penn was allowed to resign without charges, he was at least caught because good cops saw his actions and reported him.