News

Kalamazoo DPS sergeant reprimanded for neck grab

24 Hour News 8 web staff -

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) -- A Kalamazoo officer has been reprimanded after grabbing a man's neck during a dispute over his brother's arrest.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said Tuesday he had reprimanded Sgt. Derrick Turner for violating the agency's use of force policy by using "a subject control method not taught or recommended."

The discipline stems from a July 10 incident at a condemned home in the 700 block of Hawley Street. Turner found two people outside the home with an open bottle of liquor, according to police.

Hadley said Turner asked the men to keep their hands out of their pockets "due to officer safety issues relating to recent gun violence."

However, body camera video shows one of the men identified as Antonio Churchwell, who would not remove his left hand from his pocket. That's when Antonio started to resist Turner, according to the police chief.

The video shows Turner getting into a struggle with Antonio and Turner yelling for him to stop. That's when the second man approaches.

"You're just killing him bro," he said.

"I ain't killing him. Get back! Get back! Get on the ground!" Turner ordered.

The second man then backed up and ran away.

During the struggle, Turner called for backup. After arresting Antonio, Turner and another officer found suspected crack cocaine in Antonio's pocket, according to KDPS.

Shortly after the arrest, a breathless Diante Churchwell is shown in another officer's body camera video approaching police and asking what his brother did. An officer asks Diante to stay back.

"We'll take care of you in a second," the officer says.

Diante waits alongside a patrol car for about 22 seconds before asking which officer was first to arrive on the scene.

"I need to talk to him now," he says in the video.

Diante is heard yelling at the officer and repeating a racial epithet four times as he approaches Turner.

"To prevent a possible assault, Sgt. Turner grabbed Diante's upper neck with both hands to control his upper body and quickly transitioned his body behind his," Hadley stated in a Tuesday news release.

Hadley said the neck grab lasted approximately two seconds before Turner grabbed Diante's arms. Diante was then arrested and loaded into a police car.

"We told you to leave, and you ball up your fists and approach me like that, you're under arrest," Turner says in the video.

After hearing of his son's arrests, the father of Antonio and Diante came to KDPS headquarters to discuss the neck grab, KDPS said. Hadley said police reviewed body camera footage and talk through the incident before the father filed a complaint on behalf of Diante.

Hadley said an internal review of the incident was already underway before the complaint was filed. Investigators tried to interview Diante in regards to the incident but were unsuccessful, according to Hadley.

The public safety chief said he based his decision to reprimand Turner on all the video evidence, Turner's work history, department policies and "the totality of the circumstances."

"Sgt. Turner had every right to address the aggressive manner and approach utilized and displayed by Diante Churchwell, however the method he chose was not appropriate for the circumstances and fell outside KDPS policy. I did not find the actions by Sgt. Turner to be malicious or egregious.

"Be mindful that Diante Churchwell sought out Sgt. Turner in an agitated state, ignored commands by another officer to step back, used racially charged language at Sgt. Turner and advanced towards him in an aggressive manner," Hadley stated in the news release.

The public safety chief said Turner accepted responsibility for the incident and is "committed to learning from this incident and moving forward."


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