No Criminal Charges to Issue Against
Former DPD Officers Steele and Garrison
Prosecutor Says the Alleged Conduct is Reprehensible and Could Support Other Possible Liability
Statement of Prosecutor Kym Worthy
"A thorough and complete review of the allegations against former Detroit Police Department Corporal Gary Steele and Officer Michael Garrison shows reprehensible, disturbing and unprofessional conduct following a January 29, 2019 police stop of a 24-year-old woman. However, we are charged with determining whether there is sufficient evidence to charge a crime. There is insufficient evidence to criminally charge either officer. The allegations reviewed could support other possible liability."
Warrant Request for January 29, 2019 Incident
On January 29, 2019 Gary Steele, 54, and his partner Michael Garrison, 45, observed a vehicle speeding and without proper license plate tabs that was driven by a 24-year-old Detroit woman. The officers signaled for her to pull over and the woman complied. Garrison informed the woman why she was pulled over and maintained a professional demeanor throughout the interaction. Steele did not speak with the woman.
A ticket was issued to the woman by Garrison and she became upset when she was told that she could not drive the car home, but could stay in the car until a tow truck came. She declined to remain with the car and told Garrison that she lived around the corner. The woman was having a video chat with a person while being told that she could remain with the car. The person offered to come and pick her up, but she declined and walked from her car to her home. The incident was recorded on the DPD body worn camera (BWC) video. BWC evidence shows that Steele and Garrison treated the citizen fairly during the official police interaction.
As the woman walked away from her car, Steele recorded her from on his phone from the scout car and published the video on Snapchat. The Snapchat had a filter over it saying "Black Girl Magic". It is alleged that Garrison can be heard in the background saying, "Walk of shame". After the woman can no longer be seen, Steele is heard saying, "Bye Felisha". WXYZ aired the Snapchat video and DPD subsequently investigated the case. A warrant request was submitted to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office for Steele and not Garrison.
Analysis of the Allegations
This case must be analyzed as Misconduct in Office. Videotaping someone in public is lawful. The First Amendment ensures that even hate speech is protected, absent some form of intent to intimidate the target of the speech. Steele did not create this video while exercising his official police duties or under color of office. It was not taken using police property. The video was taken after, not during, the time the citizen was in custody. There is insufficient evidence to show that during his interaction with the woman that he treated the woman unfairly or inequitably during the official police interaction.
While the Snapchat Video and the comments made on it by Steele are abhorrent and unbecoming a law enforcement officer, it does not support a charge of misconduct in office. The alleged comment made by Garrison is also highly disturbing and unacceptable for a law enforcement officer. The alleged conduct is something that could support other possible liability.
Warrant Request for May 31, 2018 Incident
On May 31, 2018, Steele and four other Detroit Police officers were dispatched to Felonious Assault in progress run hear Faust and Dover on Detroit's west side. This incident was captured on body worn cameras worn by Steele and other officers at the scene. The incident was reported to the police after the January 29, 2019 was in the news.*
The 23-year-old victim admitted on the scene that she shot at someone she knew and claimed self-defense. It is alleged that Steele ordered his subordinates to arrest the woman on probable cause for a felonious assault. The victim was uncooperative because she refused to surrender her infant child to another police officer when directed to do so. Steele twice offered to allow her to call her mother to get the child but indicated that she would need to surrender the child temporarily to the police while the mother was contacted. The victim declined the offer, and wanted to walk a block away to give her child to someone.
Steele told her that she could not do that and twice asked her to please not resist arrest because she was holding her son. She refused and Steele told officers to take the child. The child was taken away safely but the victim was able to slip her left arm free. Steele lifted her left arm up in the air and can be seen moving it sideways in an attempt to handcuff her. During this action, the victim screamed that her arm was broken. The video does not show any obvious sudden movement before the victim's arm is fractured. Steele immediately called for medics to arrive at the scene.
Analysis of the Allegations
In this case, the victim was told by Steele why she was placed under arrest. There was probable cause to find that she had committed a felonious assault with a hand gun. Steele knew that the victim had fired shots at people and she admitted it.* A shell casing was found in her car. She alleged self-defense at the scene, but this is a legal conclusion and does not bar being arrested on probable cause until that determination is made.
The victim was objectively resisting arrest when her arm was fractured as Steele was trying to handcuff her. The victim backed away repeatedly and said that she was not going to be arrested. She was continuously non-compliant during the incident. His reaction to her arm being fractured, his statements and demeanor are consistent with an officer not intending to do harm. The force that Steele used to overcome her resistance appears reasonable and not done intentionally to cause harm.
There is insufficient evidence to find that a crime was committed in this case. The injury objectively appears accidental during the course of a lawful arrest without malice. As a result, no charges should issue in this incident. The alleged conduct is something that could support other possible liability.
*The May 31, 2019 incident resulted in a cross-complaint where the 23-year old victim was accused of shooting at another woman. The woman also brought a complaint against the 23-year-old woman. After a review of the warrant requests it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to charge either woman with a crime.