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A suburban Detroit police officer who punched a young Black man in the face and slammed his head to the ground was charged Monday with a federal civil rights crime.
A criminal complaint against Matthew Rodriguez was unsealed in federal court ahead of an afternoon news conference by U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison.
Jaquwan Smith, 19, was being processed at the Warren police station on June 13 after he was arrested on a warrant for multiple felonies, according to ABC News.
Smith had previously been searched for weapons, indicating there was no threat to the officer’s security, a court filing said.
Video shows Rodriguez exchanging words with Smith before the officer punched him, knocked him to the floor and slammed his head on the ground. Other Warren officers immediately intervened and reported the police brutality incident to managers.
“The victim was not in an aggressive stance and his hands were by his side with his thumbs in his pants,” FBI agent Brent Nida said in a court filing.
The federal criminal complaint says Rodriguez punched Jaquwan Smith in his head more than once, grabbed his hair and slammed his head to the ground, then lifted and kicked his feet.
FBI and Detroit PD denounce Rodriguez’s actions
The paperwork goes on to say: “WPD’s non-lethal use of force policy provides that officers use only the minimum amount of force necessary to affect and arrest, overcome resistance, defend themselves or others, or to gain control.”
“This is not what we do. This is not who we are,” William Dwyer, the police commissioner in Warren, said during a press conference on June 20 where the video was shown.
“Actions like that compromise trust in the community, the trust the community has with law enforcement,” said Devin Kowalski, FBI Detroit acting special agent. “I commend the Macomb County Prosecutor, the police department as well as the US Attorney for aggressively investigating this.”
Rodriguez was fired on June 23 and charged separately with two misdemeanors in state court.
FOX 2 Detroit reports last month, Warren police fired Rodriguez, who was initially charged with assault and battery — a misdemeanor. Now comes federal charges.
His defense attorney, Elias Muawad, had no immediate comment.