GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police could be facing a lawsuit after a traffic stop led to an officer throwing punches.
Police body camera video of the March 26 incident has been circulating on social media.
Two of the men in the car were Black, and the passenger who was in the back seat was Latino. They say it was a case of racial profiling.
Attorney Tyrone Bynum, who is representing the three men, identified the driver as Diabate Hood. He declined to identify the other two until he receives more information on their charges. Police also have not released the names of the men.
The Grand Rapids Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that officers initially pulled the car over for littering.
The video shows several squad cars at the scene as multiple officers approached the men, who were in a Chevrolet sedan. As officers walked up to the car, one of them can be heard saying he saw the passenger stuff something under his seat.
Toward the beginning of the video, police asked the passenger, who they say threw something out of the window, to step out of the car. At the same time, several other officers can be heard going back and forth with the driver, Hood, who asked repeatedly why he needed to leave the car if officers had his license. He also added that he had somewhere to be.
As one passenger was frisked, things escalated between Hood and the officers. In the video, Hood appears to try to get out of the passenger side door. He was quickly stopped by officers on both sides of the car.
Hood was then pulled out of the passenger side door. Several officers can be seen on top of him. One then punched Hood multiple times in the face.
Hood screamed out several times, saying, “My eye!” while trying to protect his face.
Police say the stop was a part of their Operation: Safe Neighborhoods, which is a response to an uptick in violent crime. They say they had “timely and accurate intelligence” to address felonies and illegal weapons during the operation, but they did not specify exactly what that intelligence was.
“This is the police work that I expect from my personnel,” GRPD Chief Eric Payne said in a statement Wednesday. “I have made the enforcement of violent crime and the recovery of illegal firearms one of the department’s top priorities.”
Police say they found four weapons in the vehicle. The stop ended with three felony arrests.
Bynum said the men should never have been asked to get out of the car.
“What I saw in the video was another George Floyd,” Bynum said. “My point is why are we to this point anyway? This is a felony-type stop. Why are we asking these guys to get out of the vehicle? Why are we handcuffing them?”
Floyd was killed by a former Minneapolis police officer in May, sparking widespread protests.
Bynum said the stop feels similar to a case he saw two years ago during which GRPD officers were accused of repeatedly punching a handcuffed man in the torso.
Bynum says one of the most alarming parts about the video is hearing an officer say that Hood is “lucky he’s not dead.”
“For that to be a statement made in the heat of the moment, that was an honest statement and an honest belief of an officer that believed that was a possibility,” Bynum said. “I mean actually stated, he actually said, ‘You’re lucky.’”
Bynum said that since posting the video on social media, several people have contacted him saying they believe they were also racially profiled in the area where the car was stopped. He is now working to get more information released on the nature of those shops.
GRPD says the stop was reviewed by supervisors and members of the department’s Training Unit. At this point, there have not been any Internal Affairs complaints filed about the incident.