Former Burton officer facing charges of ethnic intimidation, other offenses

A now former Burton Police officer is accused of being on the wrong side of the law.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 2:25 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - A now former Burton Police officer is accused of being on the wrong side of the law. Prosecutors say he slapped a Black man across the face while he was being restrained and uttered a racial slur.

Eric Freeman, the 41-year-old former officer, is facing charges of ethnic intimidation, assault and battery, and common law offense misconduct in office.

Leyton said it all started Feb. 1, when Freeman was rear ended in an unmarked police car at I-69 and Center Road.

The driver of the other vehicle, a Black man, took off so Freeman went after him and called for backup, according to Leyton.

The chase ended in a residential area where Leyton said the the driver of the car that hit Freeman backed up and hit him a second time. Other units arrived and took the driver down.

“Freeman came up to him and leaned down and said some things to him, one of which was, ‘You ran from the wrong individual, I’m a cop,’ and then he slapped him across the face and uttered the N-word,” Leyton said. “And all of this was caught on body camera and reported by other officers who were present, who recognized that this was totally inappropriate conduct.”

He resigned from the Burton Police Department after the incident.

Burton Police Chief Brian Ross commended his officers for their integrity.

“This wasn’t brought by a complaint, it was brought by our officers. And our officers know that that is not the culture that we have in the police department,” Ross said.

Freeman faces up to five years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge. Ethnic intimidation is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison, assault and battery is a misdemeanor, and misconduct in office carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.

“It pains me to have to authorize such charges against a sworn police officer but nobody is above the law,” Leyton said.

It is unclear if the driver of the other vehicle is facing criminal charges.

“When you have a collision with a police vehicle, you can’t just drive away. So you have potentially a fleeing and eluding there, and I’d have to check and see if he’s being charged or not, because certainly what the actions that were described meet the elements of a fleeing and eluding crime but having said that, there’s still no reason for what transpired afterwards,” Leyton said.

He also said while there is no doubt that police officers work in oftentimes hostile environments and the stress and frustration levels associated with their work is very high, they must adhere to proper and professional and lawful conduct while carrying out their duties.

“Freeman’s actions were intentional, they were deliberate, and they were conducted in a malicious manner intended to intimidate the subject on the ground and there is probable cause evidence indicating Freeman’s actions were racially motivated,” Leyton said.

Freeman will be arraigned in the 67th District Court.

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