Men manhandled by Detroit cops, use of force questioned - VIDEO
DETROIT (WJBK) - Over the past few years, police departments across the country have been the focus of activists as videos showed officers manhandling citizens. The city of Detroit has avoided these videos until now.
FOX 2 recently received cell phone video that appears to show two Detroit Police officers assaulting two men inside an east side gas station. But the civilian recorded video and the story police wrote don't exactly match up.
The incident happened early one morning in May. D'Marco Craft and Michaele Jackson went into the gas station and spotted two Detroit police officers.
Craft says he was afraid things would get out of hand as soon as he saw officers Richard Billingslea and Hakeem Patterson.
"Once I went in, I instantly recognized this police officer (Billingslea) because I've had confrontations with him since last year. It's been ongoing since March of 2016," Craft said. "I froze a little. And he said: 'So why you not going to buy nothing now; probably because I'm in here. M******F*****, you don't want to buy nothing now?' So that's when I had to say, 'F*** you man, you know how you treat me all the time'."
According to Billingslea's police report, he wrote that he already called for backup when he saw Mike Jackson as he was "walk[ing] towards me yelling and shouting in a very aggressive manner."
Jackson said he talked to Craft before the cops grabbed him.
"I don't know what happened inside the gas station, but on the way out he was like, 'Bro, let's go. Let's go to another gas station.' I'm like, 'Why? I don't see any tape around it.' So I'm like, I'm going on and get me some cigarettes," Jackson said.
Security camera footage could help set the record straight but the gas station's manager says he doesn't have it anymore. Police declined FOX 2's request for a copy of the video.
What we do have is what Craft shot on his cell phone.
In the video, you can see tensions mount even after Jackson was blocked from entering the store. WATCH it for yourself in the video above.
Craft and Billingslea also provide a similar account of what happened - at least, to a point.
They agree that they saw each other at the gas station. They agree that Craft cursed at Billingslea. They agree that Billingslea clashed with Jackson once he finally got inside the gas station. And that's just about the last thing they agree on.
Billingslea's report says he followed Jackson into the store and "at this time I was able to get out the way and pulled my department issued OC spray". Billingslea said he ordered Jackson to the ground but claims Jackson was still aggressive and came toward him clinched fists.
Billingslea said he then sprayed Jackson with a 2-3 second burst.
Patterson's report says he was watching Craft when he heard his partner shout that Jackson tried to hit him.
Craft's video shows Jackson facing away from Billingslea with his arms at his sides. The video also shows Billingslea macing the back of Jackson's head before grabbing him around the neck and throwing him to the ground.
Billingslea's report claimed he grabbed him around the upper torso and then threw him to the ground.
No matter how you cut it, it seems both sides may be responsible in some way. Craft's language wasn't respectful or conciliatory, Billingslea's de-escalating technique didn't work, Patterson looked like he'd rather be anywhere else, and Jackson could have listened to Craft and gone somewhere else for his cigarettes.
But Jackson said it's a free country, even at 1:30 a.m. on Detroit's east side.
"I can go in there and buy my cigarettes or buy my pop without justification," he said.
Jackson spent nearly three days in jail before being released.
Billingslea's report called the incident aggravated or felonious assault. Detroit Police sent the case to the Wayne County Prosecutor who returned it for more information.
Meanwhile, Jackson and Craft are suing the officers and the city in federal court for excessive use of force and violation of their constitutional rights.
They're not the only ones. Another man sued both Billingslea and Patterson in federal court and is also claiming excessive force.
City lawyers say the officers acted appropriately and asked a judge to toss the case.
Each lawsuit seeks money, but Jackson says he'd like something more.
"Hopefully, things will change and we can become better as one. city cops and the community," he said.
Detroit police officials wouldn't comment on Jackson and craft's lawsuit. They did say they are investigating the incident and plan to refer Billingslea's conduct to the Wayne County Prosecutor for possible criminal charges.