WATCH: Michigan Officer Reprimanded For Chokeholding Suspect

15 Aug 2017

Kalamazoo, MI: On Monday, July 10, 2017, Sgt. Derrick Turner was patrolling the 700 block of Hawley Street in response to numerous issues of drug dealing, loitering and gun violence on that specific block and personal requests from residents whom Sgt. Turner had built a relationship with. Sgt. Turner observed two suspected juveniles sitting in front of 735 Hawley Street, a condemned residence. This residence was clearly marked with a bright orange Condemned placard on the front door facing Hawley Street.

Upon his observation, Sgt. Turner immediately turned into the driveway of the above-listed residence and made contact with two subjects who were in clear possession of an open bottle of liquor and were Occupying a Condemned Dwelling.

During his initial contact, Sgt. Turner asks them to keep their hands out of their pockets. One subject complies; the other one does not. Due to officer safety issues relating to recent gun violence, Sgt. Turner grabbed the subject’s hand/arm and orders him to take his hand out of his pocket. The suspect, identified later as Antonio Churchwell, does not comply and starts to resist Sgt. Turner. While Sgt. Turner is preoccupied with Antonio, the second subject/suspect attempts to pull Sgt. Turner off of Antonio to prevent him from making a lawful arrest. Fearing now that he (Sgt. Turner) would be assaulted by the second subject, Sgt. Turner orders the second subject to ‘get back’. The subject complies and seconds later, flees the area on foot.

During the struggle with Antonio, Sgt. Turner was able to call for back-up with his portable radio and other KDPS Officers responded to the scene to assist Sgt. Turner. Once Antonio Churchwell was placed in handcuffs, both Sgt. Turner and another PSO searched Antonio’s person as well as the area where Antonio resisted for additional evidence. Located in Antonio’s pants pocket was a bag of suspected crack cocaine.

As PSOs continued their investigation, a second subject walks up to the arrest scene, identified as Antonio’s brother, Diante Churchwell. It is evident from officer’s body cam video, he was displeased with Antonio’s arrest and demanded to speak with the arresting officer. After being advised he would have to wait, he pushed his way through the scene where the arrest took place and vigorously walks toward Sgt. Turner. Diante Churchwell is heard utilizing racially charged language towards Sgt. Turner as he advances towards him in an aggressive manner coming face to face with Sgt. Turner. Video clearly captured Diante’s aggravated emotional state in his body language as well as verbal language, which a reasonable person/officer would feel an assault is probable. To prevent a possible assault, Sgt. Turner grabbed Diante’s upper neck with both hands to control his upper body and quickly transitioned his body behind his. The grab around the neck lasted approximately two seconds before Sgt. Turner quickly transitioned to Diante’s arms. Once officers had control of Diante Churchwell he was placed into handcuffs and escorted to a patrol car.

Upon their completion of the investigation and my review of the totality of the circumstances, the applicable KDPS policies, all video evidence and Sgt. Turner’s work history I did sustain the complaint and found that Sgt. Turner violated the Use of Force Policy by utilizing “a subject control method not taught or recommended”. Sgt. Turner was given a Written Reprimand by me for this violation of KDPS Policy.

Sgt. Turner had every right to address the aggressive manner and approach utilized and displayed by Diante Churchwell, however the method he chose was not appropriate for the circumstances and fell outside KDPS policy. I did not find the actions by Sgt. Turner to be malicious or egregious.

Be mindful that Diante Churchwell sought out Sgt. Turner in an agitated state, ignored commands by another officer to step back, used racially charged language at Sgt. Turner and advanced towards him in an aggressive manner.

Sgt. Turner is a dedicated officer who addresses issues in his neighborhoods, has built relationships with the residents and attempts to make their quality of life better by responding to their complaints and needs. In my meeting with Sgt. Turner he was the consummate professional, accepted responsibility and committed to learning from this incident and moving forward.