‘Violated His Oath to Serve’: Former Michigan Officer Caught On Video Slamming and Beating Black Arrestee Arraigned on Federal Charges

A former long-serving officer in the suburban Detroit police department appeared in federal court this week in connection with multiple charges related to his physical altercation with a Black teenager this summer at the Warren Police Department jail.

The incident was captured by the jail’s surveillance camera, prompting the Department of Justice to allege he not only used “unreasonable and excessive force” but provided false information regarding the incident in his official report.

Matthew Rodriguez, who served 14 years in the department, appeared before a federal judge on Monday, Nov. 6, and was arraigned on civil rights violation charges connected to his actions against Jaquwan Smith as the 19-year-old was being booked on carjacking and weapons charges on June 13.

(Left) Matthew Rodriguez punching the 19-year-old arrestee (Right) Rodriguez’s mugshot (Photos: @upnorthlive/Twitter screenshots)

A federal grand jury indicted the former officer on Thursday, Nov. 2, on two counts: willfully depriving a prisoner of his constitutional rights by using excessive force and lying about it in official paperwork. The Michigan resident faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty. The federal case has subsumed a state case against Rodriguez, local station WDIV reports.

“The protection of individuals’ Constitutional Rights, even the accused, is one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice and my office,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Dawn Ison said in a statement after the indictment was revealed.

“The conduct that is alleged here, a blatant and shocking violation of the victim’s rights, and then an effort by the former officer to lie about that, cannot be ignored or go unchecked,” the statement continued.

The FBI states in a criminal complaint filed on July 7 that Rodriguez willfully violated and deprived Jaquwan Smith’s civil rights under color of law.

Authorities note that the footage that they have as evidence has no audio, but it shows in clear detail the ex-cop losing his cool and lunging at Smith. The two seem to exchange words after the young man is fingerprinted, and then Rodriguez explodes, slapping then teenager and “forcing [Smith] into the cinder block wall using his right leg and body,” according to the complaint.


The officer then grips Smith up and slings him around before slamming the teen’s head on the floor.

At one point, Rodriguez, 48, grabs the young man by his locs and slams him again, this time with Smith kicking his feet forward in response to the injury. Two officers were present and, at times, holding Smith.

The criminal complaint also stated that Smith had no weapons on his person and did not at any time attempt to fight Rodriguez, and in their assessment, posed no threat to him. Instead, from the start of the altercation, he stood with his hands at his sides and his thumbs in his pockets before the attack.

“Mr. Rodriguez violated his oath to serve, and his alleged conduct was a betrayal of the trust placed upon him by the citizens of Warren, his fellow officers, and all police officers who perform their duties with honor and professionalism every day,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan.

Shortly after the incident, Smith filed a $50 million federal lawsuit against the three officers. Smith has not commented on Rodriguez’s indictment.

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