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VIDEO:‘An Abuse of Power’: Detroit Man Violently Beaten By Police and Falsely Accused of Assaulting Officers Files $10M Federal Lawsuit

An unarmed Detroit bouncer has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit after officers assaulted him while performing a routine liquor license check at a club where he worked.

Michael Kennebrew wants the officers who entered his place of work held accountable after viciously attacking and wrongfully arresting him. He has since filed an excessive force lawsuit against Detroit and its officers. He believes surveillance footage of the violent arrest will help his case and bring about justice.

“I think anybody who watches it should be troubled to a certain extent or a certain degree,” Kennebrew said of his arrest on April 28.

The 42-year-old father of three is a shipping supervisor and a bouncer for Minnie’s Bar and Grill. On the day of the arrest around 7 p.m., Kennebrew was making his rounds at the bar as normal. He said he noticed three Detroit police officers approach the bar but did not think much of their presence at the time.

“I saw them when they went in, and I was going to check to make sure everything was going well and notify the owner,” Kennebrew said.

WJBK reports the officers were working with the department’s vice squad unit. The unit was at the bar to ensure its liquor license was in compliance. Kennebrew says the compliance check usually happens twice a year. Unlike previous visits where the routine check would be uneventful, this visit had a different outcome.

Video surveillance from the bar captures Kennebrew walking past the female officer in the vice squad, and things escalate quickly after she grabbed his arm.

“I walked past her, and she asked me was I armed, and I said no,” Kennebrew recalled.

Surveillance shows what happened next. The female officer pulls Kennebrew’s right arm, and he pulled his arm away. Another male officer came from beside the female officer and quickly approached Kennebrew, pushing him back a few feet before the two fell to the ground.

“He just started punching me, he didn’t say anything, no commands or anything like that,” Kennebrew said.

Both Kennebrew and the male police officer were on the ground, with the officer on top of Kennebrew, the footage shows. The unidentified officer is seen punching Kennebrew at least four times in the back of his head and neck; it is unclear the exact number of times Kennebrew was punched.

As the assault continued, at least two more police officers approached a downed Kennebrew and the attacking officer. Two other bar patrons also approached Kennebrew and the officer from the opposite direction.

Michael Kennebrew is captured on surveillance before being assaulted by Detroit police. (Photo: ABS)

“I was going to attempt to get up and when I glanced up, one officer had a Taser in my face, and a witness told me another officer had his pistol out,” Kennebrew said.

It is unclear exactly how long the attack occurred, but moments later Kennebrew was arrested and charged with assaulting the police officer. He says he sat behind bars for three days.

“I didn’t even touch the other officers so when did the assault come in,” Kennebrew said of the assault charge.

Kennebrew’s attorney, Todd Russell Perkins, helped get him out of jail.

“It’s just an abuse of power, these individuals have run amuck within the system and it’s all for nothing, this guy did absolutely nothing,” Perkins said of Kennebrew’s predicament.

WJBK confirmed prosecutors dismissed the assault charge, claiming it lacked sufficient evidence.

In a news interview on May 9, DPD’s director of professional standards and constitutional policing Chris Graveline said he did not believe the officers involved sent all the available video footage to the Wayne County prosecutor for the assault charge.

“We’re looking at that as well, and that’s also one of the reasons why the [DPD Vice Squad] supervisor has been moved,” said Graveline.

Additional questions Graveline says the internal investigation may answer include what caused the officers to react the way they did.

“What could have caused this immediate escalation? On the face of the video, we see no justification, but we’ll be asking those questions,” Graveline said.

A spokesperson for the Detroit Police Department confirmed to Atlanta Black Star the case is still under investigation. The spokesperson also said the department did not have any more information to release at this time and directed ABS to a statement released by Detroit Police Chief James White on May 9.

Michael Kennebrew on surveillance being assaulted by Detroit police (Photo: ABS)

White said, “I am deeply troubled and concerned after watching the surveillance video. I have directed our Force Investigations Unit to immediately launch an investigation.”

The statement continued with, “The actions of the officer don’t appear to be consistent with our policies or procedures. Therefore, the officer has been removed from the unit pending the outcome. DPD is committed to transparency and will update both the community and our media partners following a thorough and complete investigation.”

Perkins says since the violent arrest, DPD has been far from transparent.

“We filed a suit because nothing is being done, they haven’t even given us one police report.” He added that they have a Freedom of Information Act request pending.

Kennebrew hopes his excessive force lawsuit brings accountability for what happened to him. He wants to see policy change and wants a citizen’s review board to review cases of police misconduct.

“I think there definitely needs to be policy change. If I had to recommend something, I would recommend a citizen’s review board. The citizens should decide if they want them to serve the city of Detroit or not,” Kennebrew said.

The City of Detroit currently has a Board of Police of Commissioners. The 11-member civilian board was created in 1974 and gives supervisory authority over the police department.  

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