GRPD arrest featured in viral video under investigation

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department is being scrutinized following an arrest in a McDonald’s parking lot last week.

It happened on Sept. 3 at the McDonald’s on 28th Street near the Woodland Mall. An employee at the restaurant recorded and posted a video of the ordeal via Facebook Live. The video has since been shared on Instagram and TikTok, where it has racked up about 200,000 views.

The video shows a man kneeling on the ground as multiple officers stand near their vehicles with their weapons pointed at him. News 8 is not naming the man because he has not yet been formally charged in court.

Employees inside the McDonald’s drive-thru can be heard yelling to police that they have the wrong person. The employees in the video say the man police have their guns pointed toward is just an employee who was picking up his check. They also yell to the man kneeling to lay down instead.

The man lays down on the ground and police ascend on him with the weapons still drawn and a police K9. People in the background continue frantically yelling.

GRPD said Wednesday that its internal affairs department is looking into the incident. The Office of Oversight and Public Accountability says it received a complaint about the arrest and will also investigate.

On Thursday, GRPD Chief Eric Payne released a statement in which he said his ability to comment was limited while the case was under investigation, though he did provide some additional information.

He said his officers first approached the man at the McDonald’s because he had a “distinctive” backpack that had been seen at and then removed from a break-in site on 29th Street east of Breton Road, not far from the McDonald’s.

Payne said the officers tried to de-escalate the situation, but eventually additional crews were sent to the McDonald’s “due to the subject’s resistance and the crowd.”

“We understand that sometimes bystanders may be upset or concerned about a police contact, but that is not the time to engage or interfere with the officers. That could easily lead to someone getting hurt. GRPD officers will always listen to those who have information in order to ensure appropriate action is taken, but only once the scene is safe,” a GRPD spokesperson said in a Wednesday statement.

In his statement Thursday, Payne added that McDonald’s surveillance video shows the man arrived there about 20 minutes before he was approached by officers, not the “several hours” some witnesses said.

Court documents show the man was arrested on charges of resisting and obstructing arrest and malicious destruction of police property. He’s due in court Thursday afternoon for an arraignment, according to online court records.

News 8 reached out to the mother of the man in the video. She declined comment Wednesday.

Payne’s full statement:

“I want to take this opportunity to provide the community with some additional context regarding a high-profile arrest that took place last Friday outside a McDonald’s. I am limited in what I can share while this incident is under investigation but here are the facts as we currently understand them.

“A security alarm was triggered at business in the 2700 block of 29th Street. The owners went to check on the business and saw a window in the loading dock door had been removed and a chair placed underneath the opening. There was also a distinctive unattended backpack on the loading dock. They went to check the front of the building while calling the police. Officers were dispatched to the location at 6:43 pm. When the owners retu(r)ned to the loading dock area a few minutes later, the backpack was gone.

“Two officers who were responding to the break-in initiated verbal contact with the individual in the McDonald’s parking lot because the backpack he was wearing fit the description given by the owners, and he was in close proximity to the location and timing of the break-in.

“Breaking and entering is a felony. Officers are trained to conduct high-risk stops in felony situations. The first priority in a high-risk stop is to secure the scene to protect the safety of the subject, the officers, and any bystanders. Officers followed procedures for a high-risk stop, including keeping space between themselves and the subject, using de-escalation techniques to encourage cooperation, and avoiding physical contact while dialogue is on-going. The suspect did not comply with lawfully given orders and made remarks about being suicidal.

“Officers talked to the suspect for several minutes in an attempt to de-escalate the situation and secure the scene. Additional units that were headed to the break-in location, including the K-9 team that would start a track from the building, were redirected to the McDonald’s lot due to the subject’s resistance and the crowd. Officers from a neighboring jurisdiction also responded to back up GRPD officers, which often occurs in high-risk situations that are near jurisdictional boundaries.

“A subsequent review of video obtained from McDonald’s indicated the suspect arrived approximately 20 minutes before officers. This conflicts with witness statements that the individual was on-site for several hours. 

“Body-worn and dash-board camera footage has been collected and preserved per department regulations.

“At this time, the individual has been charged with resisting arrest and the investigation into the breaking and entering is continuing.”

GRPD Chief Eric Payne, Sept. 9, 2021

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