Fired Harper Woods Police Officer sues city, says he was scapegoat for woman's in-custody death

Three months to the day since Priscilla Slater was found dead in a Harper Woods jail cell, a police officer who was fired in August is suing the city, saying he was doing his job and was a scapegoat for the city's handling of the case.

Officer Michael Pineau was fired in mid-August after acting City Manager John Szymanski said he and Deputy Chief John Vorgitch "concealed and manipulated evidence".

Pineau was the officer who found her body and wrote that her wrist and arm were cold. According to Pineau's attorney, the officer wrote in his original report was that rigor mortis had set in.

"The fact that it was in the report was simply an indication he was accurately reporting what he saw," attorney Mark Porter said.

According to court documents, Vorgitch ordered Pineau to take out the statement regarding rigor mortis, citing Pineau's lack of medical training.

"Officer Pineau told the department of public safety director 4 days later what had happened, which is the basis of this whistleblower complaint," Porter said.

But Porter said nothing happened until two months later. On August 19th, both Pineau and Vorgitch were fired, saying the two had attempted to conceal and manipulate evidence in the investigation into Slater's death.

"I think that would not have been a problem had it been left in. This is a classic case where concealment is much worse what was actually done - the city went to extra length to try and blame officer Pineau for concealing and manipulating evidence, which is absolutely not the case," Porter said.

Slater's death sparked protests, allegations of police misconduct, and a lawsuit from her family. 

The Wayne County Medical Examiner determined she died from an undiagnosed heart condition, likely hours before her body was found by a civilian employee.

Porter said Pineau only came in contact with Slater after she had died. 

"Here's the bottom line: they publicly humiliated and disgraced him and now they're going to have to publicly defend what they did," Porter said.

FOX 2 reached out to attorneys who represent the city of Harper Woods for comment. They have not returned our calls.