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New Documents Reveal Belding Officer’s Account of Fight That Got Him Fired

Posted at 1:09 PM, Nov 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-13 22:49:49-05

BELDING, Mich. — Documents FOX 17 has obtained through the Freedom of Information Act are showing more details about what happened during a bar fight involving an off-duty officer from Belding.

Officer Jason Cooper was fired from the Belding Police Department shortly after that fight and following an internal investigation within the City of Belding.

The fight happened at the Grattan Irish Pub, 11817 Old Belding Rd NE, on Oct. 11.

The documents indicate that the fight was investigated as a possible disorderly conduct case.

Reports from the investigation show that the fight started when off-duty officer Cooper stepped outside the bar.

At around the same time, another man also was heading outside that witnesses said began to call Cooper racial slurs having to do with someone of Asian descent.

One witness said that Cooper started to confront the man, but then someone broke up the altercation.

Then, a witness reported that the man yelled some other obscenities and Cooper ran back over to confront him and a physical fight broke out again.

Somehow, the men ended up inside of a vehicle, that’s when Ashley Geldersma said she walked down to the bar and found Cooper fighting inside of her car with her brother and future brother in-law.

She said she was around nine-months pregnant at that time and tried to break up the fight and was punched.

The resulting contractions sent her to the hospital.

Deputies said some of the bar staff had called police that night, but, by the time they arrived at the bar the men who had been fighting were gone.

When deputies arrived at Cooper’s house to talk to him, he invited the officer into his home to do the interview.

Investigators said, that he, “stated that he was at the bar with several friends, when an unknown white male began to call him racial slurs as he was leaving in the parking lot. ( ) said that he confronted the white male…and a physical altercation ensued.”

When asked who started the fight, the report said, “he told me that he did not remember much of what happened…said that while he was fighting…another unknown white male grabbed him from behind and began fighting with him.”

As for Cooper’s friends that were at the bar, the report said, “he told me he did not want them to get involved.”

The report goes on to state that Cooper said, “an unknown female began to yell that she was pregnant and that is when the fight ended.”

The deputy says, “I asked if he ever struck the female and he said that he hadn’t.”

Geldersma said she questioned that last statement.

“It states that he doesn’t remember anything. But, he does remember not hitting me?  I don’t see how he can’t remember anything, but he remembers that.  That gets me too.”

Cooper’s cell phone and baseball cap that were inside of Geldersma’s car were turned into the Kent County Sheriff’s Office as evidence.

The report also states that some of the men that knew Geldersma were verbally combative to investigative officers following the incident.

It states that while she was at the hospital, one of the men was, “verbally abusive to hospital staff.”

Geldersma said her fiance was upset that she had been hit during the fight. She also said the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and hospital staff kept trying to remove him from her hospital room because they mistakenly thought he was a different family member. She said that did make him angry because he wanted to be with her and the baby and he lashed out.

The police union, The Police Officer’s Labor Council, is coming out in support of Cooper.

Cooper’s labor representative, Will Keizer said, “Jason didn`t do everything right here, but his behavior did not rise to a level that would require termination.”

“I`m surprised the city council has not stepped in and ordered the City Manager to give him a second chance,” said Keizer. “I question her decision making at this point, we will go through the arbitration process and I expect to have a favorable resolution.”

No criminal charges were filed as a result of the investigation.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office said that was likely because of conflicting witness statements about who started the fight.

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Documents Obtained Through Freedom of Information Act