DETROIT – A man trying to offer protesters shelter during an August demonstration was repeatedly hit by Detroit police officers until his shoulder was separated and he suffered a closed-head injury, a complaint filed Tuesday alleges.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Kevin Kwart, lists the city of Detroit, Detroit Police Sgt. Timothy Vernon, Officer Stephen Anouti and three unnamed officers as defendants. It seeks a minimum of $75,000 in damages in addition to attorney fees and other costs.
A spokesman for Detroit police did not respond to a Free Press request for comment, but Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia gave a brief statement that said, “We are aware of Mr. Kwart’s complaints, and the DPD has an open investigation on the matter,” and offered no further comment.
On the way back to his girlfriend’s apartment in the city, Kwart noticed officers getting ready to confront protesters down the street and signaled to protesters that they could gather in the apartment building’s entryway to safely wait out the confrontation, the complaint states.
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Kwart was not participating in the Aug. 22, 2020, demonstration and was not aware that a protest was organized for that day in that area, the complaint alleges. Using a little flag attached to a long wire from his bike, he signaled to protesters that the apartment’s vestibule was a safe space to recover from the onslaught of pepper spray and batons.
As he stood at the entryway, Kwart noticed two officers arresting a protester who had been pepper-sprayed and injured. Kwart approached and attempted to intervene, telling officers, “Go easy,” and “Please relax.” An officer then turned on Kwart and shoved him back with his riot shield.
The two officers were then joined by Officer Stephen Anouti and another unnamed officer who charged at Kwart and tackled him to the ground, the complaint states. With Kwart now on the ground, Anouti held Kwart’s head to the ground and ground it into the pavement before another officer began to punch him in the face repeatedly, as Kwart was placed in zip ties, video of the incident shows, according to the complaint.
“For approximately two full minutes, the Defendant Officers continuously pummeled (Kwart) with punches, occasionally kicking him and stomping on him,” the complaint states. “Importantly, (Kwart) was fully restrained throughout the entire period of which he was subjected to the shocking level brutality.”
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Kwart, feeling concussed and experiencing severe pain in his shoulder, was placed in a line of arrestees near San Morello on Woodward Avenue and he begged for medical attention as he was barely able to see straight, the complaint states. A police medic at the scene said Kwart was fine without conducting a proper exam, the suit alleges.
Kwart was charged with blocking traffic, despite never having left the sidewalk where he was standing at the apartment’s entryway, according to the complaint.
After arrestees were loaded onto a vehicle to be taken to a detention facility, Kwart again asked to be taken to a hospital. An officer agreed and Kwart was put on an ambulance.
At Detroit Receiving Hospital, Kwart was diagnosed with a separated shoulder, an acute closed-head injury and multiple abrasions to the face, according to the complaint. After being discharged from the hospital, Kwart was taken to the Detroit Detention Center on Mound Road.
There, officers allegedly refused to sign their name on Kwart’s ticket due to how severe his injuries were. Kwart said he heard an officer say, “I’m not writing my name on that guy’s ticket.”
Kwart’s ticket was signed by Vernon, who allegedly never witnessed the arrest or any of Kwart’s alleged violations. Kwart was prosecuted for disorderly conduct, disobeying the lawful order of a police officer, and blocking a moving lane of traffic — all of which were later dismissed in court due to a lack of sufficient evidence.