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Family, attorney concerned by force used in arrest of 28-year-old GR man

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said a preliminary review of body camera footage showed no violation of the department's force policy.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — A Grand Rapids attorney says the injuries alone to his 28-year-old client are enough to show the use of excessive force by Grand Rapids Police. However, Chief Eric Payne has said preliminary review of body camera footage shows no violation. 

"I find it very hard to believe the officers used an appropriate amount of force," said attorney Lane Zabawa.

Kavosaye Phillips was asleep in the passenger seat of a friend's car when police arrived around 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20. Officers were dispatched on a report of a car in the roadway at Delaware Street SE and South Division Avenue, and the caller advised the driver may have been passed out. 

Court records indicate that when Phillips attempted to provide the officer with his license, the officer noticed he had a handgun in his waistband. 

Police say Phillips then refused to comply with orders to put his hands on his head and then resisted arrest. In a statement released a week ago, GRPD said Phillips received "scratches and abrasions to his face during a tussle on the sidewalk." 

But Zabawa said that his client was thrown to the ground and knocked unconscious. 

"He received numerous facial cuts, bruises, what we believe to be a broken hand, broken teeth and a significant brain injury," Zabawa said during a Friday, May 29 interview. 

Credit: Courtesy photo
Kavosaye Phillips' initial booking photo following his arrest on May 20.

Zabawa had not yet viewed the body camera footage as of Friday evening. The Kent County Prosecutor's Office sent the attorney a link to the video mid-morning, but due to technical difficulties, Zabawa has not been able to retrieve it. 

Phillips' mother said she has a lot of questions after seeing the injuries to her son. 

"We just don't need stuff like this happening. Not just to my son, but to anyone, any race, this is just not right," said Wanda McIntosh. "This hurts me to see my son's face like that."

McIntosh said her son's injuries are excessive and make her fearful for her other children. 

"You're here to protect us, but we are scared to call you," McIntosh said of the police. 

A spokesman for GRPD said the department is expected to conclude an internal investigation early next week.

Phillips is facing four felony charges related to the incident, including felon in possession of a firearm and resisting and obstructing a police officer. Zabawa said he will not know their legal course of action in terms of asking for a dismissal of charges until after watching the footage. 

Phillips did bond out of jail on these charges but is currently in federal custody due to a probation violation stemming from the May 20 incident. 

Zabawa said he had arranged with U.S. Marshals to have his client turn himself in on Monday, but GRPD officers then arrested Phillips on Thursday for the federal warrant.

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