A Michigan police officer has been charged with a federal civil rights crime after the release of a video that shows him punching a 19-year-old Black male in the face, pulling his locs and slamming him into the ground during the booking process.
According to U.S. attorney Dawn Ison, a criminal complaint against former Officer Matthew Rodriguez was unsealed in federal court ahead of a press conference on Monday afternoon.
“The victim was not in an aggressive stance, and his hands were by his side with his thumbs in his pants,” FBI agent Brent Nida said in a court filing.
Authorities at the Warren police station were processing Jaquwan Smith on June 13 after his arrest on a warrant for multiple felonies. The video shows the two exchanging words before Smith was punched in the face and then slammed by Rodriguez, with his head slammed to the floor.
The attack was witnessed by two other officers who intervened during the attack and immediately reported it to supervisors, who then informed police commissioner William Dwyer. An internal investigation was launched on the same day of the assault.
Rodriguez was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors, willful neglect of duty and assault. The 48-year-old was released on a $5,000 bond. He was initially placed on leave but then fired on June 23 after a hearing with Dwyer.
Smith did not request medical attention, but Dwyer made sure he was sent to the hospital to get checked out. He suffered no injuries from the attack, which was why Rodriguez wasn’t charged with felony assault.
The former officer worked with the Warren Police Department for 14 years. He has now hired Elias Muawad as his attorney, who had no comment on the federal civil rights charge against his client. Rodriguez also hasn’t publicly commented on the new charge.