Christopher Williams, 39, a Black Detroit police officer’s fight to make right a wrongful arrest from 2019 took a major step forward in a Detroit, Michigan courtroom on Dec. 5, when a jury found Thomas Michael Joseph Jones guilty of assault and battery against fellow Williams.
“We the jury in the above-entitled action, find the defendant, Thomas Michael Joseph Jones guilty of assault for assault and battery,” the jury foreman said.
“That jury found him guilty of assault and battery because of what he did,” said Todd Russell Perkins, the attorney representing Williams in his civil lawsuit against Jones and the city of Detroit for the wrongful arrest.
Now that the criminal aspect of what happened is nearing a conclusion with Jones’ sentencing forthcoming, Williams’ civil lawsuit, which is expected to seek $5 million against Jones, is moving forward.
Williams and Jones crossed paths during a June 6, 2019, mandatory police training session at the Detroit Police Training Center.
Personnel at the training were dressed in plainclothes, according to Williams’ attorney. The lawsuit filing describes how while at the training session, Williams was given an unspecified large amount of money to pay bills from his girlfriend, also a Detroit police officer.
“She gave me the money to hold before we left, because she didn’t have big enough purse to keep the money,” Williams said.
Williams, an 18-year veteran of Detroit’s police department, says while at the training session, he went to use the restroom, and it was there he also crossed paths with fellow Detroit Officer Tom Jones.
Williams says before using a bathroom stall, he readjusted the money in his pocket within view of Jones.
“When I used it, I pulled the money out and straightened it out and pushed it in my pocket because it was kind of protruding out,” Williams said.
Both Williams and Jones continued their scheduled training after exiting the bathroom, but once the training session was over, Williams says Jones racially profiled him, leading to his arrest.
“He put my hand behind my back, pushed me into a fence, cuffed me, grabbed my pocket and told me, you’re not supposed to have this large sum of money on you,” Williams described the arrest.
“He had no justification to put hands on that man because he had money in his pocket,” Perkins said.
Williams was released from custody only after his girlfriend showed Jones the bank receipt for the money according to the lawsuit. Williams’ attorney, Todd Russell Perkins believes Jones’ actions against Williams were racially motivated.
“It’s not too far of a stretch to think, this individual did this because of race,” Perkins asserted.
Soon after the incident, in June of 2019, then Assistant Detroit Point Chief, James White, told WJBK News, “to say there is a racial component, I’ve got someone in the bathroom with a very large sum of money on him and inquiries being made as to where did you get the money? It’s not unreasonable to me,” White said at the time, but later told the news outlet, he received inaccurate information at the time.
White went on to tell WJBK News during the 2019 interview, “The briefing that I got on what transpired had a lot to do with people from the outside being in the building, and doing work, and that people didn’t know who were the police, and who weren’t, because there were so many people in the building putting in a new gym at the time,” possibly explaining why Jones did not assume Williams was an officer while at the training center.
Williams says an internal affairs investigation also began after the incident and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office began its probe into the incident. Now three years later, White is now the current chief of police.
He told Atlanta Black Star in a statement, “It is never appropriate for any member of the Detroit Police Department to detain or handcuff anyone simply for having money in their possession. The investigation will now shift to a disciplinary review. Wearing the Detroit Police badge is a privilege, not a right, and I am determining the appropriate disciplinary action now that the criminal process is complete. In one of my first actions as Chief, I appointed an executive level member who oversees our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts, to continue to create awareness and to provide training to all members of our agency.”
Williams says Jones’ actions speaks to a larger issue within Detroit’s police department, for what he calls a culture of racism.
“That behavior that he’s got is taught and I don’t think he learned that within the three years he had been on the job,” Williams said. “A culture of racism, yes it’s definitely there,” Williams continued. The 18-year Detroit police veteran says he believes a racist cultural divide among the rank and file within Detroit’s police department exists. “There’s a divide within the department,” he went on to say.
“What is this guy doing when he’s out in the street policing a predominantly African-American society, like Chris said, 110 percent, he’s going to do it again,” Perkins said.
Detroit Police Department’s website says it has 2200 officers within its ranks. In a report by MLive released in 2020, 1,405 of its 2,585 sworn officers at the time were Black. The city of Detroit is 77 percent Black, according to the latest census data.
Atlanta Black Star requested more information from Detroit police on Jones’ track record as an officer and if he is still on restricted duty within the department, but our requests have not been returned at this time.
Jones did not say much after the jury’s guilty verdict, other than agreeing to an in-person sentencing hearing set for February in front of Judge E. Lynise Bryant, for the assault and battery charge, a misdemeanor in Michigan punishable by a fine up to $500 dollars or a prison term for no more than 93 days. Meanwhile, Williams and his attorney are focusing on their civil lawsuit going forward.
“If it goes to jury, at minimum, we’re asking for five million dollars,” Perkins said of the civil wrongful arrest lawsuit filed within U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan.