By Andrew Keller, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
Police at the scene of the shooting on July 1, 2012.
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -
A civil liberties group has asked federal officials to expand an investigation of the Saginaw Police Department launched after the fatal shooting of a homeless man.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said Thursday that the department's "practices appear to illustrate a pattern of racial profiling."
The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is currently investigating the July 2012 death of Milton Hall, who was shot 11 times after refusing to drop a knife.
City of Saginaw spokeswoman Debbie Buck declined to comment.
The ACLU has asked the Justice Department to look into allegations that Saginaw police have used minor infractions as a pretext for searching individuals or their cars and asking for identification or about other crimes.
"We have not established anything conclusively, but we are satisfied that there are enough red flags waving in Saginaw regarding race and law enforcement that it's important for us to bring it to the attention of the justice department and have them to investigate it if it's at all possible," said Mark Fancher of the ACLU.
The group says the cases appear to involve black and Latino residents.
>>To view cell phone video of the shooting, click on the video above -- WARNING, the video is graphic -- For more of TV5's coverage of the Milton Hall story, see our sidebar on the left of this page<<
On July 1, six Saginaw police officers shot and killed Hall in the parking lot of the Riverview Plaza shopping center. Officers were initially called to the scene on a report that Hall had spit on a clerk at a nearby convenience store. During the course of about a half hour, the scene escalated.
Police officials said Hall, armed with a knife, made threatening moves at the officers. The confrontation between police and Hall erupted into at least 46 shots fired at the homeless man who was known to have mental issues.
The officers involved were suspended with pay for 30 days and then returned to the job and were put on desk duty.
Last September, former Saginaw County Prosecutor Mike Thomas said there wasn't enough credible evidence to file criminal charges against the six officers involved in Hall's shooting death.
Now a wooden cross is the only reminder of what happened in the Riverview Plaza parking lot more than one year ago. You might remember the video and images of the scene that came to the forefront and made national news following Hall's death. They were disturbing and led to calls from angry residents, civil rights' organizations and local leaders, including Saginaw's former mayor, Gary Loster, to call for review of police policies. Loster said in July that over the past year, the police department and the city have made a move in the right direction. Terry Pruitt, the vice president of the Saginaw Chapter of the NAACP, told TV5 Thursday night he still demands answers.
"I think that it's extremely important that all of us walk away from this situation understanding what happened, why it happened, and how we can avoid from having it happen again in the future," said Pruitt.
Current Saginaw Mayor Greg Branch told TV5 the ACLU complaint to the Department of Justice puzzles him.
"We don't know of any investigation going on by the DOJ," said Branch.
And he said he's confused by why this issue keeps coming up. He said the city has already agreed to a plan approved by the Department of Justice to put in place better law enforcement practices.
"I think that this part of a larger plan on the part of the ACLU, but I'm speculating at this point, but beyond that, yes, I'm just puzzled," said Branch.
Calls to the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday night were not returned. TV5 was also told Saginaw police Chief Brian Lipe and City Manager Darnell Earley were not available for comment.
Stay with WNEM.com and TV5 as we continue to follow this story.
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