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Lawsuit claims Grand Rapids Police used excessive force

Claims the pair suffered physical injuries and emotional distress
Posted at 11:53 AM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 18:02:30-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A lawsuit filed in federal court in Grand Rapids charges the Grand Rapids Police Department and two GRPD officers with "inappropriate excessive and inexcusable use of force” in their interactions with a man and woman during a demonstration that turned into a riot last May in downtown Grand Rapids.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan on behalf of Sean Hart and Tiffany Guzman and claims the pair suffered physical injuries and emotional distress, among other things, in the incident.

Read the lawsuit

As related in the suit, Hart and Guzman were fishing along the Grand River on May 30, heard sirens and saw smoke, and went downtown to see what was going on. The pair encountered a police line, and when Hart approached officers to make inquiries, an officer pointed a weapon at them. Following instructions, Hart and Guzman went to leave in their vehicle when Hart got out and again approached police, asking what right they had to point a gun at him.

The suit claims GRPD then sprayed Hart with a chemical and shot Hart with a projectile that is used in riot control. The suit does not identify the officer who sprayed Hart but says Officer Phillip Reinink fired the projectile, which is normally used when subjects are much farther away. Hart sought treatment in Ionia.

“Tempers were high, things were rolling, so I understand that things are said and so forth, but what shouldn’t happen in that particular time frame is one of the officers pointed a rifle right at my client," said Hart and Guzman's attorney Ven Johnson. “They clearly exceeded force, they clearly escalated the force, when all my client wanted to do was say ‘don’t point a gun at me.’”

Related: No charges filed in use of force incident involving a close-range chemical deterrent

Related: Internal investigation determines Grand Rapids police officer used unreasonable force during downtown riot