An unnamed Detroit Police Department (DPD) officer has been suspended while an investigation is underway into allegations he used excessive force in punching a man to the ground in the early morning hours of August 1, 2021.
Two of his supervisors are also off-duty while it is determined whether they failed to follow policies while on the scene, according to a statement by DPD Interim Chief James White on August 5, 2021.
The 2 a.m. incident was captured in a cellphone video that went viral on social media under the title, “Detroit Pig Handing Out the Brain Damage.” In it, several DPD officers—all but one of whom appear to be White—can be seen approaching a Black man, who later identified himself to the media as Marcus Alston, 34. That’s when the only Black officer visible in the group emerges and punches Alston in the face so hard that he falls backward to the ground.
DPD Second Deputy Chief Rudy Harper said the day afterward that Alston had scuffled with officers just before the video recording began and “may have even assaulted a cop.” He provided a second video that appeared to show Alston yelling at officers, but it was unclear if he assaulted anyone.
Despite the evidence he introduced to mitigate the cop’s behavior, Harper still admitted it was so apparently egregious that it was being investigated by DPD Internal Affairs.
The officers on patrol that night, part of a group of about 20 that DPD sent to the Greektown area in response to an uptick in violence and crime, were attempting to break up a fight, though Harper said he did not have details as to what it was about.
Alston was able to sit up with prodding from the officer who struck him. The officers then withdrew, and bystanders helped him to his feet before he left the scene.
White said there were three potentially serious lapses in police policy:
- use of force is unjustified unless a suspect poses a clear and present danger to himself or others, which the video indicates was not the case with Alston;
- once force is used, a suspect should be arrested, not simply let go as Alston was;
- after use of force against a suspect, he should be offered first aid and checked for injuries, which Alston was not.
For failing to ensure these policies were followed on the scene, the two supervisors were also suspended and placed under investigation. Per union contract, all three suspensions are with pay. White added that some of the other officers may be investigated for failing to stop the cop who struck Alston if his use of force is determined to be unjustified.
Meanwhile, Alston and two other men with whom he was out celebrating that night—brothers Antonieo Hardy, 34, and Antjuan Hardy, 37, who claim they were also struck by police– have hired an attorney and plan to file a $75,000 lawsuit alleging excessive use of force against DPD.
Sources: Detroit Free Press, Detroit Metro Times, Detroit News
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