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GRPD releases video from use of force arrest involving 28-year-old man

Family members and the attorney of Kavosaye Phillips say the injuries he sustained show excessive force was used.
Credit: GRPD

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said an internal affairs investigation found that officers acted appropriately in a use of force incident that drew questions and concern by members of the public. 

The incident occurred early on May 20 when officers were dispatched on reports of a car stopped in the roadway at Delaware St. SE and South Division Avenue. A mug shot photo of Kavosaye Phillips, 28, shows his face battered, and his attorney says his teeth were broken and that he received injuries to multiple parts of his body. GRPD says the injuries to Phillips' face occurred during a tussle on the sidewalk, when he did not comply with orders. The department said two officers also received minor injuries. 

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

GRPD released a 16-minute compilation of body and dash camera video on Saturday, May 30, during a morning press conference. Chief Payne said this was an avoidable situation had Phillips complied with orders.

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

"It's very unfortunate the injuries that were sustained, but the outcome of it is that no one was seriously injured and that this was not a deadly force encounter," Payne said.

The released video starts with a call to dispatch, where the caller advises that the driver is passed out in his car, but when police arrived they find two men asleep. The video shows the driver wake up first, he is eventually arrested.

Phillips, who was in the passenger seat, wakes up a short time later, and according to GRPD, the officer quickly notices what he believes could be a firearm in Phillips' waistband. 

The officer asks Phillips to step out of the car and put his hands on his head to then be searched. As the officer is ordering Phillips to put his hands behind his head, the other responding officer gets sight of the gun in his waistband and alerts her partner and calls for backup. The video then appears to show the officer take Phillips to the ground to cuff him. The department said the injuries were sustained at this point.

Use of Force 20-29383

Use of Force incident 5-20-2020 South Division Ave and Deleware St SE The GRPD is dedicated to transparency and accountability in all aspects of our service, including when we have to use force. Chief Payne has released the attached video footage in regards to a May 20, 2020 arrest. As a result of the suspect's noncompliance to his arrest for possessing a firearm, force was necessary in order to take him into custody. As a result of his actions the struggle resulted in injuries to his face. A full Internal Affairs investigaiton has determined that the officers were in compliance with department policy and procedure. This was not a matter of police brutality, but rather a subject refusing to comply with officers' lawful orders and his actions resulting in the officers having to use force. The GRPD remains fully committed to providing fair and professional public safety service to the entire community.

Posted by Grand Rapids Police Department on Saturday, May 30, 2020

In their search of the men, officers found two firearms and cocaine. 

Phillips' attorney, Lane Zabawa received body and dash camera video on Friday, and has not been able to view it in its entirety, yet. But, during a May 29 press conference, Zabawa said he believed excessive force was used and that his client was also denied medical care. GRPD has said that Phillips refused medical care, but that was not part of the video released Saturday. 

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

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.

The internal affairs investigation was originally set to conclude early next week, however, Chief Payne said they wanted to release the video and further information as soon as possible to answer the public's questions. The release of this video compilation came hours ahead of a planned anti-racism protest in the city in the wake of the death of George Floyd. 

Editor's note: Details of this story have been updated. 

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