"We tried everything we possibly could do to enhance the video by reaching out to another local department and the FBI, but to no avail," said Prosecutor Worthy. "We have to look at the totality of the evidence to prove any criminally charged case beyond a reasonable doubt. This cannot be done in this case with the evidence available and out inability to converse with the alleged victim. Accordingly, charges cannot be issued or sustained in this case."
Summary of the Facts
On January 16, 2020, a male employee was waiting on customers at Arby's restaurant. He waited on two males, and then waited on Nicholas Blair and a female companion with tattoos under her eyes. All the customers ate their food inside the restaurant.
Mr. Blair went back to the counter and ordered fries and gave the same male employee a fivedollar bill. When the employee opened the cash register Mr. Blair said," I'm gonna need all that." It is alleged that Mr. Blair kept one hand inside of his pocket and raised his hand up as if he had a weapon inside his pocket while he made the demand. When the male employee lifted the cash drawer Mr. Blair grabbed some of the cash from inside the drawer and fled the restaurant on foot. The two male customers inside the restaurant saw Mr. Blair taking the money from the cash drawer. The Arby's manager was working at the drive thru window and saw some of the incident and called 911.
Mr. Blair fled the restaurant on foot and was seen by witnesses running to Domino's Pizza across the parking lot. One of the male customers left Arby's and flagged down officers and gave information about the direction Mr. Blair was running. Officers eventually spotted him running inside the nearby Woodcrest Apartment Complex and pursued him on foot.
During the apprehension, Officer 1 attempted to cut his path off with his scout car, but Mr. Blair got around the scout car. Multiple officers still pursued him. Officer 1 deployed his taser, but it did not stop him. Mr. Blair tripped and fell while running and got up again.
Officer 1 tried to subdue Mr. Blair when he was on the ground and he kicked Officer 1 while trying to run away again. Officer 2 tackled him around a landscaped area with rocks. Once Mr. Blair was on the ground, Officer 1 deployed a dry stun but did not stop Mr. Blair. Mr. Blair resisted arrest, failed to obey commands, refused to show his hands (one was inside his coat sleeve), and struggled with the officers. Officer 3 arrived, joined the apprehension and, while Mr. Blair was struggling, Officer 1 accidentally tazed Officer 3. Officer 3 also reported getting hit by a "hard object" before stepping away from the struggle. His injuries required medical treatment. Officer 4 admitted to striking Blair with his baton twice during the struggle. Officer 5 arrived and tried to assist officers handcuffing Mr. Blair. He continued to resist and almost kicked Officer 5 in the face.
When Mr. Blair was hand-cuffed and in police custody, he had blood on his face, lumps on his forehead and his eye was swollen. He was treated by EMS at the scene and immediately transported to the hospital. He later had his eye removed due to complications from his injury. Mr. Blair was charged with Armed Robbery. On June 11, 2020 an out-county Assistant Prosecuting Attorney (APA) mistakenly dismissed the case and sent the file to be processed by WCPO for Civil Commitment for Mr. Blair. The case was re-filed. Currently Mr. Blair has been evaluated by an expert at the Forensic Center and an Independent Expert who both determined that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial. On May 13, 2021, he had a hearing before Judge Sandra Cicerelli in 18th District Court where she found him to be incompetent to stand trial. The issue of Mr. Blair's competency to stand trial will again be heard on July 14 ,2021.
The warrant request was received from the Westland Police Department on June 2, 2020. In 2020 and 2021 WCPO requested further information from Westland. In this investigation reports were reviewed, witnesses were interviewed by WCPO investigators, as well as the Westland Police Department policy on use of force. As a result of Mr. Blair's lack of competency, he could not be interviewed regarding what occurred in this matter for this investigation.
The investigation was protracted due to the quality of the body warn camera (BWC) video. On June 20, 2020, WCPO contacted the Dearborn Police Department, an independent agency, and requested to slow down and sync all the BWC video footage because the video was quite fast and unclear. The entire apprehension was approximately three minutes long and the struggle in question is approximately 40 seconds long. After the work was done the video still had unclear images of the incident. On June 29, 2020, WCPO contacted experts at the FBI to assist in enhancing the BWC video. The process was very lengthy because it must be approved by officials in Washington, D.C. In April 2021 the FBI determined they were unable to further enhance the video.
Westland Police Department's Use of Force Policy
The Westland Police Department's use of force policy allows officers to use deadly force when an armed robbery suspect such as Mr. Blair is fleeing from the police using an objectively reasonable standard under the circumstances. Under the Response to Resistance Policy Sect IX, E2b.C.v., it states that impacts to the head, neck, throat, and clavicle should not be used unless the officer is justified to use deadly force.
In this case Mr. Blair was an armed robbery suspect who fled from the scene to avoid apprehension. The officers had information that he was armed from dispatch. When the officers caught up with Mr. Blair, he was given repeated verbal commands throughout the encounter. Mr. Blair failed to obey the commands. Officer 1 tried to stop Blair with the scout car, and he kept running. Officer 1 deployed his taser and Mr. Blair kept running. He tripped or fell on the rocky landscape and got up and continued running from Officer 1. Officer 2 tackled him to the ground, and he kept kicking and fighting with the officers. He was dry stunned by Officer 1 again and that had no effect on Mr. Blair. Multiple officers were trying to detain him and yelling commands to show his hands and he hid his hand deep inside his sleeve. When all the measures failed to subdue Mr. Blair, Officer 4 admitted that he used his baton two times. It is Impossible to determine from the BWC footage how many strikes hit the ground, how many took effect, and exactly where they landed since Mr. Blair was still fighting and disobeying commands when the baton was used.
The other tactics did not stop the suspect until the baton was deployed. Only then did the suspect start to obey commands and the officers were able to handcuff him. Looking at the totality of the circumstances there is insufficient evidence to prosecute this case and the case is denied.