GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids man says he is thankful to be alive after an officer’s gun discharged during a police stop.
The Grand Rapids Police Department says it happened around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. Police say they noticed a car they believed was stolen. The car was believed to be involved in other crimes and police say they received reports there were two firearms in the stolen vehicle.
GRPD says they never pursued the car because of the potential danger to pedestrians and other drivers, but there were multiple sightings and attempts to stop the vehicle.
Officers say when they saw the driver of the car pull off near Cass Avenue and Sycamore Street SE to go into a house, they set up a perimeter and planned to make contact when the driver came back out.
He left the home a short time later.
Police say while approaching, one of the officers was running down a sloped area when his gun went off. They say the bullet hit a building.
Police are now investigating but say the initial evidence suggests the shot was unintentional.
Officers also found that the car the man was driving was not the stolen car they were looking for.
The man who was driving the car police stopped was 30-year-old Daevionne Smith. He says he was released after police realized he was driving a different model car.
“I thought my life was ending,” said Smith.
Smith says on Thursday he was stopping by his dad’s house on Cass Avenue. He says when he got there, his dad was asleep so he decided he would come back at another time. He says he was inside the home for only a few minutes.
“I go down the stairs and I get to the sidewalk, and I see movement coming from the left of me and I thought somebody was trying to rob me because it is a high crime area that I was in,” said Smith. “I look to my left and I kind of got scared and I shot, like ran to my right and I made it like five to seven feet, and I heard a gunshot go off. And when I heard the gun shot go off, I fell to the ground and that’s when I heard ‘Freeze! Get down on the ground.'”
Smith says he hurt his arm while falling to the ground. He says while the bullet did not hit him, the incident was especially traumatic after his cousin Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police in Kentucky in March of 2020.
“It really didn’t hit me until I was in the back of the police car and now, I’m really thinking what just happened to me and I started dropping a couple tears because it brought me back to Breonna, because this stuff happens so much in our community,” said Smith. “Every day it’s a thought that what if one day it’s me.”
Court documents show Smith is not being charged in connection to the stop. He says he was detained for about 30 to 45 minutes and interviewed by a member of the internal affairs unit with GRPD.
“What do we do to make sure he’s the last person that goes through that type of treatment,” asked Kent County Commissioner Robert S. Womack.
Womack says after the incident, he received a call from Smith. He is now calling for accountability from the department.
“(Police are) human beings, and all of us human beings make mistakes, but when you understand police communications with Black neighborhoods, when you make those mistakes, you have to step up quickly and do everything that you can to let this community know that you care about this community that you’re policing,” said a tearful Womack.
Smith says he wishes police would have gone about this differently.
“They could’ve hit my license plate and seen who and where the car belonged to. They could’ve looked at the badge of the car and seen that this said A8 and it wasn’t an A7. It was so many other things,” Smith said. “I’m thankful but the thought that I could’ve been gone. The torment I got to deal with in my mind daily of me not walking in to my 3-year-old child, running up to me, that looks up to me. My other children that look forward to talking to me on the phone, my mom that likes to (converse). My dad that likes to check on me. All of that could have been gone, stripped from me, behind a mistake.”
Smith says he has not received a formal apology from police or an explanation. Smith and Womack are hoping to speak to Chief Eric Payne about the incident sometime this weekend.
News 8 reached out to GRPD for an on-camera interview, but they declined as their internal affairs unit investigates. News 8 also requested bodycam footage of the incident.