The mother of a 15 year-old African-American Grand Rapids boy filed a lawsuit on December 23, 2015 in Federal Court in Grand Rapids against the City of Grand Rapids and police officers Sean McCamman, Nathan Mean, and Peter Thompson.
The complaint alleges that during the early evening hours of June 13, 2014, the boy, referred to in the complaint as “D.B.,” was standing in a group of five African-American young men on a sidewalk in the city of Grand Rapids. Acting on an anonymous tip that was never confirmed, the police attempted to illegally stop and detain D.B., intending to search him for a gun. When D.B. exited the area, the officers gave chase and illegally restrained D.B.
D.B. was unarmed. The complaint explains that D.B. was thrown to the ground, face first, and then struck in the head multiple times with a flashlight and punched by Officer McCamman. While Officer McCamman struck D.B. with the bulb end of the flashlight, D.B. was holding his hands behind his head, attempting to defend against the blows being struck by Officer McCamman. Strikes to the head with a blunt object are considered to be deadly force as a matter of law. No crime having been committed, the force was unnecessary, illegal, excessive and a violation of D.B.’s civil rights.
D.B. sustained serious head injuries, suffering long-term effects including loss of speech, stuttering, periodic loss of consciousness, frequent falls and gait instability, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, sensitivity to light and noise, severe muscle spasms in the back and neck, among others. The injuries delayed D.B.’s graduation from high school, impacted his grades and prevented him from playing sports.
The officers who illegally detained D.B. arrested him that night, and he was petitioned in juvenile court on criminal charges of resisting and obstructing a police officer and carrying a concealed weapon. The resisting and obstructing a police officer charge was dismissed by the judge prior to the trial in March of 2015. D.B. was found not guilty of carrying a concealed weapon at a jury trial on May 1, 2015.
The lawsuit alleges that the entire course of action by the Grand Rapids Police Department officers that night was illegal and in violation of D.B.’s constitutional rights. The anonymous tip received by the police that evening was not enough for the police to stop D.B., or require him to be searched. Further, it is alleged that the force used by Officer McCamman was excessive and unnecessary. The suit also alleges that the City of Grand Rapids failed to properly train, supervise, or discipline McCamman and the other officers involved in the incident, and/or condoned unconstitutional practices, such as illegally detaining young African-American men.
Ms. Thompson and D.B. are represented by Keeley Blanchard and Joshua Blanchard of Miel & Carr, PLC, a Grand Rapids law firm specializing in criminal defense and police misconduct litigation. Miel & Carr, PLC have partnered with Hugh “Buck” Davis and Cynthia Heenan of Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., a Detroit firm specializing in police misconduct litigation, in pursuing the lawsuit. Keeley Blanchard represented D.B. in the May 2015 jury trial that resulted in D.B. being acquitted of all charges.
“It is devastating to watch the continued abuse by the police of young people, of African-Americans, and to see, as in this case, no consequence to the officers. As long as our system continues to fail to hold police officers accountable, the abuse of minorities, young people, and the mentally ill will continue,” Ms. Blanchard said.
Statement from Natalie Thompson, mother of D.B.:
My son’s injuries are so severe that he will never fully heal mentally, physically, or emotionally. He, myself, and our family are devastated by the abusive beating that a minor child endured. The officers involved have no concept of the severity of their actions. No one is above the law. We are all accountable for our actions.