THURSDAY, April 16 — Reports and video footage that detail an alleged instance of police brutality against a black man in East Lansing will not be immediately released to the public.
East Lansing Mayor Ruth Beier today shot down a request from City Pulse to immediately release copies of all video footage and investigative records tied to a December 2019 incident that left an unnamed black man with head injuries and white police officer with paid leave.
“There is a bit of nuance here that I just can’t describe because, if I were to describe the nuance, it could interfere with the ongoing investigation,” Beier explained. “I wish that we could just give it all out to everybody, but the Michigan State Police are asking us to keep this private.”
Earlier this month Beier ordered the Police Department to release portions of videos and investigative reports from an incident where Officer Andrew Stephenson had allegedly used excessive force to arrest a man for driving with a suspended license back on Dec. 29, 2019.
Stephenson, by order of Police Chief Larry Sparkes, remains on paid administrative leave while the Michigan State Police investigate the incident to determine whether overly aggressive arrest tactics had been used. Sparkes said ELPD provided MSP with a summary of its internal probe.
Copies of that investigative summary, however, will not be released until state investigators reach a conclusion, Beier said. Unredacted video footage of the incident, including tapes of the entire physical interaction with officers will also be kept from public view — for now.
“I often defer to attorneys and the experts on what we can and cannot release,” Beier added, noting that the reports and video footage will be released when the MSP probe has ended.
The decision marks the end of a weeks-long wrestling match between City Pulse and the city of East Lansing for the unfettered release of those records. City officials, despite efforts to remain transparent, insisted the public release could jeopardize the ongoing misconduct investigation.
Beier said those involved in the incident — including two other ELPD officers — could be inclined to adjust their testimony based on what can and cannot be viewed in the unredacted video footage. It’s possible, she said, that Stephenson himself might not have viewed the tapes.
Reports released so far confirmed that three officers made a traffic stop on Lake Lansing Road at about midnight on Dec. 29, 2019. A middle-aged black man — identified only as Anthony “The Can Man” and Mr. Loggins — allegedly failed to signal pulling out of a nearby Meijer.
Records showed officers were suspicious because his car, a black Malibu, also matched the description of a vehicle that darted away from Lansing Township officers the night before. It was later discovered the driver had either an expired or suspended driver’s license, reports state.
The driver was allowed to retrieve insurance paperwork from his trunk, but was quickly arrested after he climbed out of the car. From there, the tape cuts off while Officers Austin Nelson, Evan Siemen and Stephenson presumably have a physical encounter with the driver.
Reports stated the man was “feeling agitated” and “immediately turned and squared off” with officers when they tried to arrest him. Austin said the man, at some point, had also reached into his car when officers advanced, possibly to retrieve a weapon — “a huge safety issue.”
A subsequent search of the vehicle didn’t appear to turn up any weapons, according to reports. The man can later be heard telling officers that they were in trouble, questioning the necessity of their aggressive arrest and threatening legal action. He filed a complaint a few days later.
Officers, in the meantime, requested charges of disorderly conduct and driving with a suspended license. It’s unclear how the case panned out; The suspect’s full identity was not revealed in the police reports, making a reliable search of public court records impossible.
City Attorney Tom Yeadon also told City Pulse that an additional internal investigation into excessive force had started at the East Lansing Police Department but was referred to the Michigan State Police before it could be completed or reach any definitive conclusions.
Additionally, a “preliminary recommendation” on whether Stephenson had unnecessarily brutalized the suspect during the December incident was never sent over to MSP investigators. Yeadon said ELPD didn’t want to sway — or give the appearance of swaying — their findings.
Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and continued coverage as the investigation proceeds.
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