The Michigan Office of the Attorney General has denied charges against the Washtenaw County Deputy Sheriff involved in a use of force incident which took place earlier this year in Ypsilanti Township. The Attorney General’s office justified the deputy’s response claiming that he had responded appropriately "given the level of resistance by those being arrested."
The incident occurred on Tuesday, May 26th following a shooting in the Appleridge neighborhood of Ypsilanti Township. Video of the deputy repeatedly punching Sha’Teina Grady El in her head circulated on social media following the incident, as much of the encounter was documented via Facebook Live. Police later tasered Sha’Teina Grady El’s husband, Daniel Grady El. Video of the incident caused outrage in the Washtenaw County community due to the use of force by the deputy. Since the incident, protests in support of the Grady Els have occurred throughout the Washtenaw County area.
The Office of the Attorney General released a statement regarding the decision on Sept. 15. “[The] use of force was justified and appropriate given the suspect’s level of resistance, and that he committed no criminal offense in his interactions with [Sha’Teina] Grady [El],” the statement reads.
According to the statement, the officer involved in the incident, Austin Pearson, began to arrest the Grady El’s for noncompliance which led to the Grady El’s physically resisting. "During the struggle to arrest, it is alleged [Sha’Teina] Grady [El] severely bit Pearson on the arm. Pearson then struck [Sha’Teina] Grady [El] three times with a closed fist in the head until she released her jaw. She allegedly bit Pearson’s other forearm and scratched his head with her fingernails, kicking at other officers as she was escorted to the patrol car." While in police custody, Sha’Teina Grady El allegedly kicked the door of the sheriff’s vehicle which the statement claims caused "damage to the door and the door frame.”
Sha’Teina Grady El is being charged with three counts of resisting and obstructing an officer, a two-year felony; one count of resisting and obstructing an officer causing injury, a four-year felony; and one count of malicious destruction of police property, a four-year felony. Daniel Grady El is being charged with two counts of resisting and obstructing an officer, a two-year felony. In regard to the charges against the Grady El’s, the prosecuting authority is the Office of the Attorney General rather than the Washtenaw County prosecutor.
Independent investigation into the Pearson’s use of force was conducted by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association Special Investigative Operation Network (MISSION) with review of the investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General. Pearson remained on administrative leave at the time of the statement’s release and interval administrative review was to be conducted by the Washtenaw County sheriff’s Office (WCSO). The WCSO released their own statement regarding the Attorney General’s decision, which can be read here.
“As far as Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, there is no relationship [with Black Lives Matter]. If the Sheriff’s Office can’t build with us, in truth, we can’t build. We need honesty and transparency, and they are not good with that,” said Trische’ Duckworth, executive director and founder of Survivors Speak. “In my opinion, they were wrong with the incident. They came onto the scene and didn’t even give directives and just apprehended the Grady El’s with no real reason at all. They rendered a horrific beating on Sha’Teina and Daniel. It would seem that the Sheriff’s side job, offering training to police is not working for them. You can train racism, white supremacy and evil hearts away,” said Duckworth.
Survivors Speak is a non-profit organization that provides a platform for survivors of trauma to have a voice that has been silenced by oppression. The organization has been very active in the fight against police brutality throughout the past summer.
“It is often disappointing to the public when officers seem to avoid accountability for their conduct, but on the same day that the Attorney General announced that no charges would be filed against the Ypsilanti deputy, she announced that she was charging officers in Saginaw and Jackson,” former federal United States attorney and law professor at the University of Michigan, Barbara McQuade said regarding the ruling.
“To promote respect for the rule of law and deter other officers from engaging in misconduct, it is important that officers be held accountable for use of excessive force,” said McQuade. “While we may be frustrated with a lack of accountability in some instances, each case must be assessed on its own facts.”
McQuade noted that the Attorney General’s investigation found several factors in support of finding the deputy’s use of force as justifiable given the interference with police activity when responding to a shooting, refusal to follow multiple directives to stop entering a crime scene perimeter, physical resistance to arrest, including biting the deputy. “Investigators found that the deputy struck her with his fist while she was biting his arm and stopped when she released her jaw. While officers should work to de-escalate tensions before resorting to physical force, the law permits the use of force where it is reasonable. The Attorney General found that force was reasonable here,” McQuade said.
The Community Engagement Director for the WCSO, Derrick Jackson, could not be reached in time for comment. At the time of the Office of the Attorney General’s statement, the court dates for the Grady El’s had not yet been set and arraignment was pending. More from the WCSO on the May 26 Appleridge incident can be read here.
The Attorney General’s press release refers to Daniel and Sha’Teina Grady El as Daniel and Shatina Grady.