SAGINAW, MI – Whether a Michigan State Police trooper faces criminal charges for repeatedly punching a Saginaw man in the face during a traffic stop is now in the hands of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
Saginaw County Deputy Chief Prosecutor Blair N. Stevenson said his office received an investigation report April 26 from the MSP’s Professional Standards Section regarding an incident that occurred March 28. Shortly thereafter, Stevenson forwarded the report to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, requesting a special prosecutor assigned to the case.
“We believe it is in the best interest of the community to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” Stevenson said of why he sent the case to the outside prosecuting agency.
Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office informed Stevenson on Monday, May 2, that staff were accepting the case.
The incident in question involves a soldier who repeatedly punched Saginaw resident Vance D. Martin, 47, in the face while under suspicion of drunk driving. Video footage of the incident was recorded by civilians standing nearby.
Footage was also recorded by the body-worn cameras of two Saginaw Police Department officers who arrived at the scene. MLive-The Saginaw News submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the footage, but it was denied on May 5, with officials citing an ongoing investigation.
However, the MSP granted another FOIA request sent by MLive requesting written reports of the incident. These reports say the ordeal began at around 7:14 p.m. on March 28, when soldiers noticed a red Pontiac Grand Am driven by Martin turning at high speed eastbound on Annesley Street. The soldiers’ radar indicated that the Pontiac was traveling at 46 mph in a 25 mph zone, according to their reports.
Soldiers stopped the Pontiac in the 2300 block of Annesley Street after Martin failed to stop at two stop signs. The soldiers wrote in their reports that Martin was uncooperative, failing to provide identification or exit the Pontiac.
Martin finally got out of the car and the soldiers handcuffed his wrists behind his back. Soldiers told Martin he was under arrest, but he then refused to be placed in the backseat of a patrol vehicle and held his body up.
A soldier tried to push Martin into the patrol vehicle, but his efforts were ineffective. Other soldiers and two Saginaw police officers responded to the scene. The names of the soldiers are redacted in their reports.
Martin continued to fight his arrest, to the point where he struck the back of a soldier’s legs with his own, the soldiers wrote.
“At this point, Trooper (redacted) delivered a direct punch to Martin’s face, causing him to momentarily lose consciousness and fall to the ground,” the reports state.
Officers requested a mobile medical response to the scene to assess Martin. When paramedics arrived, Martin refused medical attention.
Soldiers and officers then resumed trying to get Martin into a patrol vehicle, kneeing him in the legs and punching him in the lower abdomen. Martin kept his body tense, however.
The soldiers wrote that Martin at one point put his right leg between a soldier’s legs and lightly kicked his genitals. The soldier then delivered four straight punches to Martin’s face, three of which connected, according to reports.
Video footage recorded by civilian Keith Brookins and provided to MLive shows this second round of punches to the face.
Martin lost consciousness again momentarily and fell to the ground. Soldiers and officers were able to pull and push Martin into a police cruiser shortly thereafter.
Martin was taken to Covenant HealthCare Hospital for an evaluation and blood work. Police then arraigned Martin in the Saginaw County jail with five counts of assaulting, resisting or obstructing police and one count of operating while intoxicated and having a open intoxicant in a vehicle. Martin was released from prison the next afternoon without being arraigned on any charges.
The test results from Martin’s blood sample were not included in the reports obtained by MLive.
Inside the Pontiac, police found a 12-ounce Michelob Ultra and a pint of Seagram vodka, both open, behind the driver’s seat, according to reports.
As of May 4, Martin has not been charged with any crime related to the March 28 events. The soldier who hit Martin is still suspended. Officials did not release his name but said he had been with the MSP for four years.
Martin, speaking with MLive shortly after his release from prison and still wearing a bloodstained sweatshirt, said he believed the incident was born out of racial profiling. Martin is black, while the soldier who hit him appears to be white.
“I had a problem with a certain cop,” Martin said. “He racially profiled me. He called me “boy” the whole time he handcuffed me. This is where it all really started. I didn’t want to deal with him at all. I wanted a lieutenant, that’s all I wanted.
MSP policies prohibit the use of “objectively unreasonable or excessive force in any scenario.”
“The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable law enforcement officer on the scene at the time the force was used, rather than looking back 20 /20,” MSP Official Order No. 7 states. “The question is whether the actions of the law enforcement officer are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances facing the officer. Objective factors will determine the reasonableness of the force, including, but not limited to, the seriousness of the crime, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of law enforcement officers or others, and whether the suspect actively resists arrest or attempts to evade arrest by flight.
Video footage shows a handcuffed Saginaw man being repeatedly punched by a Michigan State Police trooper
Investigation underway after a handcuffed Saginaw man was repeatedly punched by a state trooper during his arrest