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An off-duty police officer who pulled a gun on a Black teen working his paper route in 2021 has been charged with three felonies by Michigan’s Attorney General.
Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release that DeWitt police officer Chad Vorce, a White 18-year-veteran, was off-duty when he drew his firearm twice on 19-year-old Alexander Hamilton, a Black newspaper delivery driver.
“Our assessment of this incident showed dangerous behavior exhibited by Mr. Vorce,” Nessel said. “Those who swear to protect and serve must do so responsibly. We will not hesitate to hold accountable those who violate that oath.”
Vorce is charged with the following:
- assault with a dangerous weapon (felonious assault), a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and/or $2,000;
- weapons – felony firearm, a felony punishable by two years consecutively with and preceding any term of imprisonment imposed for the felony or attempted felony conviction; and
- misconduct in office, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or $10,000.
Vorce is scheduled to appear before a judge on April 28.
Off-duty Officer Pulls Gun on Black Teen, officer charged
The incident took place shortly after 7 a.m. on January 14, 2021, when the off-duty officer saw a gray van in his neighborhood. Vorce said he found the vehicle’s presence suspicious because of recent break-ins in the area.
He approached the van in his personal vehicle while not in uniform and asked Hamilton if he needed directions. Unhappy with Hamilton’s response of “I’m just doing me,” Vorce began following the van and called 911.
“Black male hanging out in the area” who “needs to be checked,” he told police dispatchers in a recording of the call. “The plate’s covered up with dirt so I can’t get it.”
Vorce later told police he thought Hamilton was trying to ram his car when the teen put his van in reverse.
“I tried to back up and reverse around him so I could talk to him but he just kept backing up, kept backing up so I just eventually turned off and left the whole neighborhood,” Hamilton told responding state police.
Vorce was not in uniform and was in his personal vehicle when he approached Hamilton. On the call with dispatchers Vorce can be heard saying “he’s trying to ram me…I’m going to go shots fired if he does it again!”
This is the first time that Vorce pulled his gun on Hamilton while he was in his delivery vehicle.
Hamilton then told responding Michigan State Police Troopers that he wanted to be somewhere public with witnesses around so he drove to a nearby gas station. Vorce followed him, blocked his car, then exited his vehicle with his gun pointed at Hamilton for a second time.
When Michigan State Police responded to the scene at the gas station, Hamilton was detained and both he and Vorce were interviewed.
Hamilton told police he did not know that Vorce was an off-duty police officer.
After conducting their interviews, responding officers determined Hamilton had done nothing wrong and he was released.
The DeWitt Police Department said that Vorce was placed on administrative leave almost immediately for violating city and police department policies.
“The city of DeWitt then conducted an internal investigation of the incident involving the off-duty police officer. We have the utmost confidence that the city of DeWitt has taken appropriate action in this matter,” the city government told the AP.
Vorce was fired in May for violations, including excessive force and failing to de-escalate the situation involving Hamilton.
Arbitrator Reinstates Fired Officer
Vorce won his appeal of his firing and was reinstated to the police force the same year.
The former officer was reinstated by arbitrator Thomas Barnes, who wrote that “based on Grievant’s convincing testimony that he has learned his lesson; his genuine demonstration of remorse; the fact that he has taken corrective measures; along with the devastating effect this disciplinary action has undoubtedly had on his life, there is sufficient evidence that the Grievant has rehabilitated so that the city can operate with reasonable assurance that the conduct will not be repeated.”
Barnes’ decision is legally binding under the Michigan Uniform Arbitration Act.
The DeWitt Police Department said they were “extremely disappointed” with Barnes’ decision to give Vorce his job back and that they stood by their decision of firing him.
“The public should know that the City of Dewitt did not settle this case,” a department statement read. “The City elected to litigate the decision to terminate Officer Vorce and exhausted all options available through the arbitration process.”
The day after Officer Vorce was charged with three felonies, Hamilton filed a federal lawsuit, alleging Vorce and his colleagues violated his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights by the use of excessive force, illegal seizure, false arrest, and false imprisonment.