THURSDAY, Sept. 3 — Prosecutors will not pursue charges against an East Lansing Police officer who was accused of using excessive force last year against a Black man at a traffic stop.
The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office denied a request yesterday afternoon by Ingham Co. Prosecutor Carol Siemon to charge Officer Andrew Stephenson after videos were released that appeared to show him kneeling on a suspect’s neck during an arrest that was made in downtown East Lansing late last year.
A warrant requesting charges originated in Ingham County but was eventually assigned to Jackson County after Siemon recused herself from the case. From there, it was later reassigned to the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office for a final determination.
Stephenson, who was accused of excessive force, was cleared of any alleged wrongdoing in May after a Michigan State Police investigation determined that he was entirely justified in using force to apprehend two Black suspects — one on Dec. 29, 2019, and another on Feb. 9, 2020.
Several days later, as videos of Stephenson appearing to kneel on a suspect's neck circulated in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, MSP backtracked and requested Stephenson face some criminal charges over the incident. After the decision in Washtenaw County, the case is closed.
Police reports confirmed that three officers, including Stephenson, made a traffic stop on Lake Lansing Road on Dec. 29, 2019. A middle-aged Black man, later identified as Anthony Loggins, allegedly failed to signal while pulling out of a nearby Meijer. Loggins, after allegedly resisting arrest, was pulled out of his vehicle and sustained injuries after hitting the concrete.
Prosecutors, in denying to take up charges, said Stephenson used a “reasonable use of force to protect both the officers” and Loggins from “greater injury that could’ve resulted from a prolonged struggle” — all actions that were totally “within his authority as a police officer.”
“There is no evidence that the force used by Officer Stephenson was unwarranted or excessive under the circumstances,” prosecutors wrote in a legal memorandum released this afternoon.
Charges against Loggins have also since been dismissed. MSP also initially found that Stephenson’s holding a knee to the man’s back and neck was “nothing outside of ELPD’s training guidelines” — a finding again corroborated by prosecutors in Washtenaw County.
Stephenson remains on the job, only now assigned to the Detective Bureau.
East Lansing defense attorney Mike Nichols, who represents Stephenson, has called on prosecutors to quickly clear his client of any charges related to the incident. He contended the videos showed that Stephenson followed training to “bring the subject safely into custody.”
Nichols said Stephenson was relieved to hear the news last night.
“He’s been through hell and the sleepless nights he’s endured are something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” Nichols said. “He’s been publicly vilified by the City Council, in particular from former Mayor (Ruth) Beier. He has been cleared six ways from Sunday. He’s a good man.”
Beier, for her part, said she wouldn’t consider it vilification — only an honest assessment.
“I watched to the video and said how it looked and how made me feel,” Beier said. “I don’t really want to get back into all of this. And I certainly wouldn’t want to vilify him any more than he already apparently thinks I have in the past."