Ask ELi: Was an ELPD cruiser used as bait?

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Members of the Ingham County Special Response Team standing next to the ELPD car whose windows were smashed (May 31, 2020).

At Sunday’s large and impromptu protest in East Lansing, a small number of people smashed the windows of an ELPD vehicle left in an otherwise empty parking lot on the east side of the police department.

Was this one vehicle left there by police as a kind of bait?

Some ELI readers have been asking, so I put that question this morning to Interim Police Chief Steve Gonzalez. Here is his response:

“This car was not left as bait. As the protest moved into East Lansing we had some patrol cars parked in their designated parking sports on the east side of the City Hall building. When it became clear that the group was moving towards City Hall, we had officers moving cars from their parking spots to avoid the potential of any damage to them.”

Gonzalez’s response continues, “The group was moving quickly and this was the last car that needed to be moved. The officers simply ran out of time before the group surrounded the car. They made the right decision to leave the car in place rather than try to drive it out through the group. Trying to maneuver it out through the crowd could have caused injury to someone.”

Sunday’s protest happened with little warning because marchers headed over from Lansing and moved relatively quickly. By contrast, yesterday saw a protest planned in advance, set to start at noon. I got to the ELPD parking lot at about 11:40 a.m., and at that point, most of the lot was empty. Within a few minutes, officers moved the last two ELPD vehicles out of the lot, and the lot was empty by about 11:50 a.m.

Protestors elected yesterday to use the area in front of City Hall (the west side of the building that holds the police department) for yesterday’s demonstrations, and the protest was peaceful. As we reported, yesterday’s protest looked different from Sunday’s in multiple ways.

ELi is filing a FOIA for Sunday’s security camera footage of the parking lot to see what happened in advance of the protesters arriving. We will let readers know what the results are.

Have a question you want us to try to get answered? Contact us!

UPDATE: Read our report on what the video seems to show.

ELi has a special section dedicated to our current reporting on East Lansing Policing. See it here.

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