Sheriff responds to ‘unpleasant’ video of use of force

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said an investigation is underway after a video emerged of a Genesee County Sheriff’s deputy using excessive force.
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 3:33 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said an investigation is underway into whether a deputy used excessive force after a video of a man’s arrest April 2 was posted online.

“Every use of force that we have that is either at the jail or on the road, we do a review,” Swanson said. The sister of the man who was arrested is calling it excessive force and, on Tuesday, Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church called for action.

The pastor and minister at Rising Star accuse Flint Township officers of hurting the man and not reading him his Miranda rights after he was accused of shoplifting from the Walmart on Corunna Road. The church said Flint Township officers initially arrested him after pulling over an MTA bus, but it was later confirmed that the man had not shoplifted and he was taken to Hurley Medical Center in distress. That’s where they allege he “endured another physical altercation” with Genesee County sheriff’s deputies who then arrested him.

Swanson addressed the video during a press conference on Wednesday, April 6. He said Walmart gave 911 bad information. Swanson added that law enforcement officers need to stay calm, “We have to control our emotions, that’s why we get paid to do what we do,” he said. “It’s a great, noble profession, but it’s a challenging one.”

Swanson said the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Flint Township Police Department, Walmart and Hurley Medical Center are working together to review and investigate.

Swanson said punches and hand strikes can be acceptable procedures for law enforcement, adding that officers use a “force continuum scale” to evaluate and respond while on a call.

“When you see the video, there was no chokeholds, there was no c-spray, there was no taser,” Swanson said. “There are tools we have to use to maintain law and order. It’s still worthy of investigation and that’s why we are there.”

Devontae Powell, senior pastor at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Flint, said he is outraged over the video.

“This young man is a vital part of the Flint community and we’re seeking justice on his behalf,” Powell said.

The man’s sister was at the scene and accuses officers of excessive force.

“The officer at the top of his head started striking him for no reason,” Jasmine Burrell said. “He was already detained, he wasn’t moving, he was down.”

Powell said, when Burrell’s brother was taken to Hurley, he was upset over being falsely accused of shoplifting.

“This black man, one, was physically, mentally, and emotionally distressed because he had just been attacked by the Flint Township Police office and falsely accused and profiled by a Walmart employee that he shoplifted and was innocent,” Powell said.

Powell said the man then had a verbal exchange with a nurse that caused security and sheriff’s deputies to be called in.

“It leads to him getting arrested, he’s taken to Genesee Co. Jail on Saturday and was not released until later on Monday evening,” Powell said. “Unacceptable.”

Powell calls Sheriff Swanson’s investigation into the situation unethical.

“We need someone to come in who is not biased,” Powell said. “Who will do a fair and a just investigation of what has happened.”