Grand Rapids Police Sued for Excessive Force
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Ven Johnson Law, PLC, has filed an excessive force and police misconduct lawsuit against the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Police Officer Phillip Reinink in the United States District Court Western District of Michigan Southern Division. The suit claims Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) officers used excessive force and illegally threatened and assaulted clients Sean Hart and Tiffany Guzman.
On May 30, 2020, Sean Hart and Tiffany Guzman were fishing in Grand River, near downtown Grand Rapids, when they heard sirens, saw smoke and decided to investigate. They were unarmed, had no weapons in their possession and had not consumed any drugs or alcohol that day. As they drove through the city, they approached a line of police in riot gear blocking them from entering a one-way road. Hart stopped to ask for clarification as to where to turn. Three GRPD officers quickly approached the vehicle and illegally threatened Hart and Guzman by pointing a loaded weapon at them and screaming to make what normally would have been an illegal left turn.
Hart peacefully obeyed the police and turned left but was shaken by the encounter. He stopped, got out of his vehicle, and walked toward the police line, stopping approximately 20 feet in front of it. He told the officers their conduct was unwarranted.
Without warning, an officer moved toward Hart and without any verbal warning or order, sprayed mace and/or a chemical spray in Hart’s face. The Grand Rapids Police Department has refused to provide the officer’s name, but he will be added to the lawsuit shortly. After that officer stopped spraying, Reinink, without warning, shot Hart at point blank range with a long-range projectile designed to be launched from 375-450 feet away. Hart suffered burns, bruises and pain to his eyes, face, and shoulders. He sought immediate treatment at a nearby hospital and received additional follow-up medical care.
“The use of the chemical spray or mace at point-blank range, let alone the shooting of a weapon at point-blank range, constitutes the use of deadly force,” said attorney Ven Johnson, of Ven Johnson Law. “This is assault and battery and is a clear violation of GRPD training, policies and procedures. Reinink was disciplined for this misconduct and placed on a two-day unpaid suspension and the other officer was not disciplined. This is unacceptable and GRPD must be held accountable for officer conduct which could have killed my client.”