A lawsuit was filed in federal court Wednesday according to the corporate press alleging that the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) beat Darrius Joseph in 2004 while detaining him for a parole violation. The incident took place two years ago with GRPD officer Matthew Lockhart beating Joseph—who admits to running first—with his police radio. According to court documents filed in the case, once Joseph laid in the “prone” position Officer Lockhart drove both knees into Joseph’s abdomen and beat him repeatedly in the back of the head with his radio, causing gashes in his head that had to be stapled shut. In a case where other GRPD officers testified against him, Lockhart pled guilty to misdemeanor assault and was eventually fired following an internal investigation by the GRPD. The $2 million lawsuit is for compensatory and punitive damages charging that the incident showed that the GRPD abused their power. Joseph’s lawyer, Stephen Drew, was quoted by WOOD TV 8 stating that “We give police, and rightfully so, power. Power to handcuff people, power to detain people. We give them power to render people defenseless… However, when the officer crosses that line and abuses that power, that’s what the constitution is about.”
Over the past few years, there have been several reported incidents of police abuse in Grand Rapids. Another case is that of Willie Winters a man who was beaten by the GRPD during a “hindering and opposing” arrest yet was later found innocent of those charges. Footage of Winters “violent” arrest was repeatedly used by the media to portray African-Americans arrested on hindering and opposing charges as unreasonable during the public debate over the hindering and opposing ordinance last year. While Winters was eventually exonerated, only WOOD TV 8 acknowledged this despite the fact that all of the local broadcast stations used the footage.