College students sue Detroit police who stopped recording of arrest

An Oakland University journalism student and his friend are suing Detroit police.

They claim they were assaulted and detained while trying to record officers trying to arrest a man.

Only one cell phone video clip survived from the night Mekel Richards and Adam Malinowski were arrested in Detroit.

"You can't be here, get the phone down," says a Detroit police officer in the video.

"I have a legal right to do this," says the voice holding the phone camera.

It was the night of the 2014 Ford Fireworks, and cameras from buildings show the scene from above that caught the attention of the two students.

"We see this crowd of eight to 10 police officers swarming around a man, his face was covered in blood and dirt from the ground," said Mekel Richards. "So we said, we have to record this."

The two students were at Grand Circus Park and say they saw a man abused by police, took out their cell phones and hit record. That got the attention of the officers, who then came over and allegedly punched one of them.

The officer is said to have taken the other's cell phone and smashed it, but first the police allegedly removed the videos from the phone.

In the video, FOX 2's Dave Spencer shows the smashed phone and the bruise on one of the student's faces, allegedly from the punch of a DPD officer.

"I didn't even see it, the officer slugs me across the face," Richards said. 

As Richards tried to videotape the officers, his friend was videotaping him when police saw him. 

"'If you don't put your f-ing phones away we are going to send you to jail,'" Malinowski remembers hearing. 

And they did go to jail - charged with police interference. They were prepared to go to trial.

"The officers didn't show up," Richards said. "So the case got dismissed."

Now, their evidence and focus is on a lawsuit. They are suing for both compensation and to ensure what they say happened to them doesn't happen again.

"It would be great if this lawsuit could send the message to the DPD that their behavior is unacceptable and for them to change policy," Malinowski said.

"They interfered with us," Richards said. "They want to say we were the interferers, but they interfered with our right to film them."

FOX 2 reached out to the city for comment, and were told they don't speak on pending litigation.