In a stunning reversal of events, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon has dropped charges against Anthony Loggins Jr., an African American man injured in a December 2019 arrest by ELPD officers, and is now reviewing the complaint of alleged excessive use of force by ELPD Officer Andrew Stephenson.
Just last week, responding to public calls for Stephenson’s firing, City Manager George Lahanas said at City Council that Stephenson would not be fired or even disciplined because an investigation by Michigan State Police Lieutenant Erik Darling – requested by East Lansing – exonerated Stephenson.
But now, “The City of East Lansing has requested a use of force review from the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office regarding a complaint of excessive force” – the one by Loggins against Stephenson.
Today’s statement from the City indicates – and Siemon confirmed independently – that there had been a communication mishap.
Siemon’s office apparently thought they had been asked simply to review the charges against Loggins, not to look for problems with Stephenson’s actions as contained in the excessive use of force complaint.
Meanwhile, Lahanas’ office thought – based partly on what the state police review said – that Siemon’s office had already reviewed the video tapes and complaints against Stephenson and had found reason to go ahead with prosecuting Loggins but not to review possible excessive force used by Officer Stephenson.
Indeed, the state police report by Darling concludes, “This matter was already reviewed for criminal liability by the Ingham County Prosecutors Office and their determination was to issue charges against [Loggins] and not against any of the officers involved. I agree with that conclusion.”
But that was a misrepresentation by Darling of what had actually happened.
Siemon told ELi by email today, “when our office reviewed the December warrant request, there was no information that there was a use of force complaint, nor were the dash cam or body cam videos included.”
The original warrant against Loggins was authorized by Siemon’s office based only on the written police report.
Apparently because of public outcry connecting Stephenson’s placing his knee on Loggins’ neck or upper back to the police killing of George Floyd, last week Siemon’s office “reviewed the police report and we requested the videos” in the Loggins arrest.
In the last few days, Siemon and the reviewing attorney in her office “mutually agreed that had our office had all the information for the December event at the time the case was reviewed, we would have not authorized” the charges against Loggins.
The prosecutors asked for dismissal of the charges against Loggins this week, on Wednesday, “in the best interest of justice” according to court records. (We first learned of this through the reporting of Joshua Valiquette.) The charges against Loggins were cleared today.
Will Stephenson be charged with anything?
Whether Siemon’s office will find reason to charge Stephenson with any crime remains to be seen. According to the press release from the City of East Lansing, issued late today, “we have requested that they complete a use of force review in this case.”
Reached by phone, Mayor Ruth Beier said Siemon will have to decide if there is anything in Stephenson’s actions worthy of prosecution.
Beier told ELi, “I’m glad the county prosecutor is finally going to look at the video” in terms of Stephenson’s actions. “I was surprised the state police found there was no excessive force, because the video was so disturbing – and it was good quality video. You could actually see what was going on, and it seemed excessive to me, as a lay person.”
Asked at last week’s Council meeting what it was that he saw in the video that caused him to refer to the matter to the state police for possible criminal charges against Stephenson, Interim Police Chief Steve Gonzalez said it was the way Stephenson’s shoulders moved as he had Loggins on the ground.
Beier agreed at that meeting, saying “his shoulders indicate [Stephenson] lifted [Loggins] up and then pushed him down.”
She added, referring to the injury of another arrested Black man in February 2020, “The fact that there was a second incident was enough for me.”
That “second incident” involved Stephenson’s face-planting maneuver bloodying the face and eye of Uwimana “Tito” Gasito. ELPD had reviewed Gasito’s complaint against Stephenson and other officers, but found “insufficient evidence” to rule “excessive use of force.”
Did Loggins really try to bite Stephenson during the arrest?
Several people viewing the Loggins’ arrest videos have raised questions about Stephenson’s claim that Loggins had tried to bite him – essentially asking whether Stephenson made up the claim right after he realized he had injured Loggins, in order to justify what he had just done to Loggins as “appropriate use of force.” (Loggins was taken to the hospital for his injuries.)
The video shows Stephenson taking Loggins down without any mention of a bite – or any apparent recoiling – from Stephenson. Stephenson then keeps his knee on Loggins’ neck or upper back, with Loggins handcuffed and facedown, still making no mention of a bite attempt.
It is only after Loggins is rolled over and it is clear his head is injured that Stephenson brings up an alleged bite attempt.
While putting Loggins in the car, he asks, “Why you tried to bite me?”
Loggins forcefully denies this, shouting, “Man, I didn’t try to bite nobody – what the fuck you talking about? You a liar! You a liar!”
Stephenson tells him to “relax, relax.” He then seems to position his camera and flashlight on his arm, pulls off his glove, pulls up his sleeve, shows a small mark, and tells another officer that Loggins tried to bite him.
Use of force is determined to be “appropriate” or “excessive” depending on what an officer is facing in the attempt to arrest. More extreme use of force can be justified after the fact if a suspect attempted to bite an officer.
In the ELPD investigation of Loggins’ complaint of excessive force, ELPD Sergeant Tom Blanck reported that Loggins “denied having tried to bite anybody and in fact said he couldn’t because he didn’t have any teeth. He does not have teeth in the upper part of his mouth, however does have very pronounced teeth on his bottom jaw.”
Beier told ELi today, “I don’t understand how a man with no top teeth could bite him, and when I talked directly to Mr. Loggins, that’s what he said.”
Beier has now placed on the agenda of the City Council’s June 9 meeting a resolution which commits to review and reform the use of force policies of the East Lansing Police Department. The review process is to include “[engaging] our communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories.”
Council member Mark Meadows has introduced a second resolution stating the City Council’s support for Michigan Senate Bill 945, “to promote further training for law enforcement officers to enhance their abilities to better serve their community and address concerns regarding practices that imply racism in law enforcement.”
The State Senate passed that bill unanimously; it has yet to be acted on by the House.
Both these resolutions are on the Council’s Consent Agenda for next Tuesday, June 9.
ELi has a special section dedicated to our current reporting on East Lansing Policing. See it here.