A Michigan man has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Grand Rapids and its police department, accusing them of using excessive force. His lawyers allege the incident was racially motivated saying, they have to ask, “if this atrocity would have happened had his skin been white.”
On Thursday, April 28, Fahirri Jasmall Dannah, 44, filed a claim in U.S. District Court accusing the Grand Rapids Police Department and five of its officers of violating his civil rights after beating him unconscious following a traffic stop in November 2019 that left him with brain damage, a cut on his head, and a dislocated shoulder.
The five officers named in the lawsuit are Anthony Barberino, Harvey Barker, Zachary Kaiser, Melissa Moninger, and Michael Spees, who alleges the habit of using excessive force is because the department officers are improperly trained and not disciplined for brutality. Though the lawsuit does not suggest all of the officers participated, it lists them all because no one did the right thing, according to the lawyer.
“We want to know why all those other officers who were there, five officers, why nobody did the right thing,” Jon Marko, the lawyer representing Dannah, said. “Justice looks like holding the people responsible and accountable for their actions and hopefully making just a little bit of change in Grand Rapids.
“The deprivations (of Danna’s constitutional rights) were caused by the series of deliberately indifferent policies, customs, and established practices, including inadequate training, by the City of Grand Rapids,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit reveals Dannah was not driving when the car was pulled over for speeding down 11th Street and having an object dangling from the rearview mirror. He was in the passenger seat.
The female driver of the car stopped and permitted officers to search the vehicle. She then went to the back of the officer’s patrol SUV, according to FOX 2.
When the cops demanded to search Dannah he refused, the claim states. He believed the officers had “no probable cause” to conduct the search.
“What are you talking about? I ain’t got no warrant,” Dannah stated.
Still, the officers pushed saying they wanted to “pat” him down to make sure he didn’t have weapons, despite the man saying he did not.
“Nope. You got nothing like that. You’re not going to jail,” one of the officers said.
The claim describes how “After several minutes of being harassed by the officers for no reason, Mr. Dannah attempted to end the encounter.”
Bodycam video shows Dannah walking to the side with an officer, whose camera is not rolling. Then viewers can hear a scream off camera.
This prompted the officers to run toward him and at one point grab him and bring him back to their car. Then the officers start to bang the man’s head into their patrol cruiser. The officers continued to beat him, throwing him to the ground, even after he lost consciousness.
Of the three officers there, the female cop threw her body weight onto the man and dislocated his shoulder. The other two “punched the helpless Mr. Dannah,” the lawsuit states.
Marko reports, “They took him to the ground abusively, caused great injury, were punching him. They actually knocked him out and accused him of using cocaine.”
Still unresponsive, the officers handcuffed the Black man, charging him with assault, battery, resisting, obstructing a police officer, and falsely accusing him of swallowing cocaine. Toxicology reports would later say that was untrue.
The bodycam video that was released does not show any parts of the altercation that led to his injuries. The attorney believes the footage was either destroyed, deleted, or is still in the custody of the police.
Pictures of Dannah in the hospital after the beatdown show that something violent happened to the man. But did it violate his civil rights or the police code of ethics?
The GRPD manual of procedures says police may use physical use of force — empty hand strikes and kicks — if a detainee is resisting after verbal warnings. Under the use of force escalation and deescalation division, Section 3-B says: “Escalation of force may be justified when an officer reasonably believes that the level of force being used is insufficient to stop or control the resistance.”
The Kent County native’s lawyers say as a result of the altercation, Dannah has “significant physical, emotional suffering, psychological injury, and trauma.”
Marko took advantage of the recent headlines that cast the GRPD in a negative light. He cited the April 2022 police killing of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old African immigrant who was shot by an officer in the back of the head after being pulled over for a traffic stop because he had an unregistered license plate on his car.
Marko said his client’s case is “another blemish on the Grand Rapids Police Department involving a minority suspect.”
In a statement on Friday, April 29, he wrote, “We have to ask the GRPD if this atrocity would have happened had his skin been white. When will this stop?”
The attorney alleges his client was triggered after Lyoya’s death made the news and now suffers from PTSD.
The attorney for Grand Rapids City says the municipality has not been served.
“To date, the city has not been served with any lawsuit brought on behalf of Fahirri Dannah,” the city’s lawyer offered in a statement. “If and when the city is served with such a suit, it will respond in accordance with the applicable court rules and within the confines of the relevant law.”
The employment status of the officers involved in the assault on Dannah is not known, and they may still be active on the force.