WATCH: Police Officer Reprimanded For Throat-Grab Incident in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI — A police sergeant was reprimanded for inappropriately grabbing a man by the throat during a July 10 arrest on Kalamazoo’s Northside.

The grab was described by Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley as “a subject control method not taught or recommended.”

Hadley announced the reprimand Tuesday afternoon involving Sgt. Derrick Turner, a 10-year veteran officer who was patrolling the 700 block of Hawley Street on July 10, when the incident occurred.

A complaint about the incident was leveled by the family of Diante Churchwell, 20, of Kalamazoo. He and his younger brother were arrested that night.

After saying he had reviewed an internal investigation, KDPS policies, video evidence and the sergeant’s work history, Hadley stated in a press release that he would “sustain” the complaint about the incident “and found that Sgt. Turner violated the Use of Force Policy by utilizing ‘a subject control method not taught or recommended.'”

He said Turner was given a written reprimand by him for the violation of KDPS Policy and will undergo additional training.

Hadley said Turner had just arrested Churchwell’s 17-year-old brother Antonio at about 9:14 p.m. outside an abandoned house in the 700 block of Hawley Street when Turner and other officers were approached in an aggressive manner by Diante Churchwell. Hadley stated that Diante pushed pass some officers to find the officer who had arrested his brother.

On Tuesday, Aug. 15, KDPS released two body cam videos and a patrol car dash cam video of the incident.

“Sgt. Turner had every right to address the aggressive manner and approach utilized and displayed by Diante Churchwell,” Hadley said. “However the method he chose was not appropriate for the circumstances and fell outside KDPS policy.”

Hadley said, however, “I did not find the actions by Sgt. Turner to be malicious or egregious.

The charges come as a surprise to the family of Antonio and Diante Churchwell, their parents say.

Timeeko Churchwell, father of Diante and Antonio, said he has seen the body cam videos and thinks Diante was inappropriately grabbed by the throat. Attempts to contact the father Tuesday afternoon were not successful. But Rev. Strick Strickland, local NAACP president, said he is disappointed by the officer’s punishment.

“I’m not mad. I’m not angry. I’m disappointed,” said Strickland, who leads the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP. He said he hopes to meet with KDPS on Wednesday, Aug. 16, to learn how the decision was made and “talk about how we move forward from here.”

“We said initially that we were looking for accountability and also looking to make sure that there was no double-standard,” he said, speaking of police officers compared to other citizens. “However, if I put my hands around your neck it’s an assault. If you put your hands around my neck it’s an assault. But if KDPS puts their hands around your neck it’s a written reprimand. I find that to be unacceptable and distasteful at the least.”

Strickland met with a KDPS command officer days after the incident on behalf of the Churchwells. He said the incident was not one that involves a violation of civil rights but one in which the community wants to hold the police responsible for policing themselves.

Among other things Hadley noted in his findings, “It is evident from the officer’s body cam video, he (Diante Churchwell) 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 walked toward Sgt. Turner. Diante Churchwell is heard utilizing racially charged language towards Sgt. Turner as he advanced towards him in an aggressive manner coming face to face with Sgt. Turner.”

Both Churchwell and Turner are African-American men.

“Video clearly captured Diante’s aggravated emotional state in his body language as well as verbal language,” Hadley stated, “which a reasonable person/officer would feel an assault is probable.”

Antonio Churchwell, 17, faces a charge of delivering or manufacturing a controlled substance (narcotics or cocaine) less than 50 grams; and for assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer. Police video shows Turner in a physical struggle with Antonio after ordering him to take his hand out of his pocket.

KDPS alleges that Turner found a bag of suspected crack cocaine in Antonio’s pants pocket.

The drug charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison upon conviction. The resisting and obstructing police charge is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Diante Churchwell, 20, faces a charge of attempted assaulting, resisting or obstructing police. That is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $1,000.