A sheriff’s deputy who arrested a Black Michigan man for “soliciting” — though he was only collecting signatures to help his community — has been fired.
The announcement about the unidentified deputy’s termination was made by Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley and Undersheriff Timothy Hurtt on Friday, Jan. 22 after an internal investigation, MLive reported.
“We hold ourselves to high standards of professionalism to the communities we protect. When we are right, we are right. When we are wrong, we admit we are wrong. On January 2, we were wrong,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
La’Ron Marshall, 44, was going door to door on Jan. 2 collecting signatures to form a tenant association where he lives at the Wyndtree Apartments where he lives in the southern Michigan town of Springfield. He was approached by while he was at his neighbor Kimberly Totzke’s apartment by two deputies who said they’d received a call about someone soliciting.
Totzke captured footage of the arrest, which happened in front of two of Marshall’s kids, ages 8 and 13 (he also has a newborn who was at home), on her Ring doorbell and cellphone. She then uploaded the videos to YouTube, which went viral.
“Put your hands behind your back … put your other hand behind your back,” the first deputy told Marshall in the video. “For what? My kids is right there,” Marshall responded. “You’re either gonna follow instructions or you’re gonna go to jail,” the deputy continued.
“Has he broken the law,” Totzke asked repeatedly. “That’s what I’m trying to ask you. What law am I breaking? You ain’t telling me nothing,” Marshall reiterated.
Then the second deputy responded and told Marshall he was “soliciting without a permit.” When Marshall asked what he was soliciting, the second deputy responded, “Whatever you’re soliciting.” To this Marshall replied, “So you don’t even know what I’m doing.”
The deputies then asked Marshall for his ID and when he did not produce one, they handcuffed him, took him to their patrol car and searched him while he continued to ask what crime he’d committed. Then one of them violently shoved Marshall inside the patrol car.
At this point, one of Marshall’s kids began crying and said, “I’m tired of this. They always be picking at us. They can do what in the world they want.”
Marshall was charged with resisting and obstructing police and spent the night in jail. He maintains he was only trying to improve his community’s safety.
“I was not doing anything illegal,” Marshall told WWMT. “I was trying to collect signatures to bring the community together as a collective and trying to see what we could do in keeping the community safe.”
Totzke had to help Marshall’s children call their mother after police officers arrested him. She said she thought it was important to record the encounter because the deputies approached Marshall aggressively.
“When they got out of the car it was pretty hostile,” Totzke said. “That was the point where I pulled my out camera phone because I didn’t think my security camera would be enough to pick up everything going on out here.”
The unidentified deputy was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, but on Friday Hinkley and Hurtt said they concluded the deputy was wrong and had violated Marshall’s rights.
“Transparency and honesty to our community is the foundation to all of our success. The conduct and actions of this case, in which Mr. Marshall was collecting signatures, does not represent our commitment to our community,” the statement read. “The actions that Mr. Marshall took that day of circulating a petition are protected by our constitution. While some ordinances in communities, even within Calhoun County, prohibit vendors from selling items without a permit, no law — local, state or federal — prohibited Mr. Marshall from exercising his constitutional rights on January 2.”
The charges against Marshall were dropped and he told MLive Hurtt apologized to him in person. However, he said he and his kids are still traumatized by the incident.
“I wasn’t really thinking about myself, really, it was my kids,” Marshall said. “My kids were there and they didn’t need to see that, especially with what’s going on around the country right now. It was very traumatizing to them. They’re still having trouble sleeping and I’ve had a couple sleepless nights.”