GRPD releases videos of traffic stop, shows officer punching suspect

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department has released videos of a traffic stop that led to an officer punching a man several times.

The incident happened March 26. Police body camera video of the situation had been circulating on social media before the police department released four videos Thursday.

In the newly released videos, it shows different angles of the traffic stop. The videos are from officer-worn body cameras and dash cams. They have been redacted to protect privacy.

WARNING: The following video may contain strong language and images some may find disturbing.

In a statement posted on Facebook Thursday, Police Chief Eric Payne said the department released the video to give more context to the incident.

“I am very sympathetic to the fact that the use of force by police officers, in any manner, can be disturbing for the public to see. I also feel very strongly that my officers exhibit tremendous discretion in determining when force is required, and that they use the verbal commands and de-escalation techniques they have been trained on before resorting to physical engagement or other use of force,” he said in the statement.

GRPD said they initially pulled the car over for littering just west of the intersection of S. Division Avenue and Hall Street.

The men inside the car, two Black and one Latino, say they were racially profiled.

Grand Rapids police say the stop was a part of their Operation: Safe Neighborhoods, which is a response to an uptick in violent crime. They also said they had “timely and accurate intelligence” to address felonies and illegal weapons during the operation. GRPD did not specify exactly what that intelligence was.

Police found four weapons inside the car, and the stop ended in three felony arrests.

No complaints have been filed yet in the case, but GRPD told News 8 that an Internal Affairs investigation has been opened.

The following is Payne’s entire statement released on Facebook Thursday:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Police Department has released four videos regarding the March 2021 traffic stop pursuant to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings. Police Chief Eric Payne is providing this statement regarding the videos:

I am very sympathetic to the fact that the use of force by police officers, in any manner, can be disturbing for the public to see. I also feel very strongly that my officers exhibit tremendous discretion in determining when force is required, and that they use the verbal commands and de-escalation techniques they have been trained on before resorting to physical engagement or other use of force.

The conversation around the limited footage that is publicly available is unfortunately lacking critical details and information. I want to provide the full context for the encounter and additional video of the events that led to the stop and the subsequent arrests of three individuals as well as the recovery of four illegal guns.

For the last year we have seen an unprecedented increase in violent crime and illegal weapons. We, as a community, have experienced:

• 40 homicides from January 2020 to date.
• Over 183 recovered firearms since the beginning of 2021
• 83% increase in weapons violations

On March 26, 2021, 110 Hall Street SW was being surveilled by officers due to a history of violent crime over the past year including:

• 6 stolen vehicles or police pursuits
• 15 assaults
• 15 calls for shots fired
• 19 Weapons offenses
• 56 Arrests

In fact, one 11-day period prior to Operation: Safe Neighborhoods, the address experienced 12 recovered firearms and more than 3300 grams of narcotics, resulting in 34 drug and weapons charges.

The videos of the stop are from officer-worn body cameras and in-car dashboard cameras. Videos have been redacted and edited in an effort to protect privacy rights and to avoid the release of information that state law prohibits the Department from releasing. The redactions or edits do not affect the depiction of events as presented in these videos.

Officer Reed’s video shows the perspective of two officers who were not initially part of the traffic stop. Based on the radio calls describing the front seat passenger’s movements in the car, and the history of unlawful and often violent activity occurring at or near 110 Hall Street SW, the officers did join the stop to provide assistance.

Officer Kotecki’s video is from the perspective of the officer who makes contact with the passenger. The officer, having learned that the passenger was making movements under his seat, made the decision to remove the passenger from the vehicle. The passenger was removed from the car legally, safely and without force.

Sgt. McCamman’s video shows the use of force that occurred after the driver attempted to flee from the vehicle through the passenger side door. During the struggle to subdue, the officer believed that the suspect was attempting to take possession of his firearm. Hand strikes to the face were used to stop attempts by the suspect to disarm the officer.

Officer Sale’s video shows the perspective of the officer making contact with the driver. This video is not one of the videos circulating on social media but is a part of the record of the stop and arrest, which is being released to provide full transparency. The video shows the driver’s refusal to comply with lawful commands, his attempt to evade officers, and his eventual arrest.

I have ordered the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct a complete administrative review of the encounter in the interest of transparency and accountability. In order to ensure an objective and thorough investigation can take place, I will not be providing further details at this time, but I want to assure the community where I stand. I will not protect officers who abuse their authority or dishonor the badge. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my officers when they encounter dangerous situations and conduct themselves professionally, safely, and with integrity.

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Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne

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