Officer Assaults Black Man In Custody Now Faces Civil Rights Charges

Officer Assaults Black Man In Custody Now Faces Civil Rights Charges

A Warren, MI police officer was fired and now faces federal civil rights charges. Matthew Rodriguez was caught on video punching a 19-year-old suspect after the two allegedly exchanged words, the Associated Press reported.

Jaquan Smith was arrested June 13 on a warrant for multiple felonies. The police station’s video feed showed him being punched in the face and slammed to the ground by Rodriguez. Multiple officers saw the attack, intervened, and subsequently reported what they witnessed to station managers.

According to court documents, FBI Agent Brent Nida described Smith’s stance and positioning: “The victim was not in an aggressive stance and his hands were by his side with his thumbs in his pants.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Michigan’s press release, Rodriguez was formally charged with violating a prisoner’s civil rights and the charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.

U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison disclosed the reasoning behind the charge in a statement:

“The allegations in the complaint demonstrate a shocking abuse of authority by this officer which cannot be ignored, or go unpunished…We are grateful for Prosecutor Lucido’s cooperation in this case, and his willingness to dismiss the state charges so that this federal case can go forward where the defendant now faces a felony charge.”

During a June 20 press conference, Police Commissioner William Dwyer shared remarks after the video was shown to the public, ABC News reported. 

“This is not what we do. This is not who we are.”

The potential for the police to use excessive force is a driving factor in the push to eliminate interactions with the police. As data indicates, the risk goes up for Black Americans.

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