Attorney General: Deputy’s use of force against Ypsilanti Township resident was ‘justified’

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 9:49pm

The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel determined a Washtenaw County deputy’s use of force against Ypsilanti Township resident was justified.

The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel determined a Washtenaw County deputy’s use of force against Ypsilanti Township resident was justified. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel determined a Washtenaw County deputy’s use of force against Ypsilanti Township resident Sha’Tenia Grady El and her husband Daniyal was justified, according to a Tuesday press release. Video of the altercation that surfaced over the summer sparked massive protests amid nationwide calls for racial justice.

In May, Austin Pearson, a white officer, responded to reports of a shooting in an Ypsilanti neighborhood. Grady El and her husband had allegedly interfered with police activity, and video footage showed Pearson appearing to punch Grady El, a Black woman, in the head multiple times during an arrest. According to the Attorney General’s office, Grady El reportedly kicked at other officers and at the door of a patrol car. 

“During the struggle to arrest, it is alleged Shatina Grady severely bit Pearson on the arm,” the release reads. “Pearson then struck Shatina Grady three times with a closed fist in the head until she released her jaw.”

Police also tasered Daniyal Grady El and placed him under arrest. 

Throughout the summer, protests against police brutality demanded accountability and reform, referencing the treatment of Grady El as an example of systemic problems. After days of community outcry, Grady El was released from jail. 

Grady El, among others, spoke at a June rally on the Diag at the University of Michigan, protesting against racial injustice. 

“Stay on this, because it’s not just me,” Grady El said. “I’m sure at least a quarter of you have had some type of interactions with law enforcement that may not have gone well. So, this is just letting them know that we see you, and we’re not going to stand for it.” 

At the time, her lawyer Bill Amadeo urged protesters to continue calling for change until the officers involved were prosecuted and the charges against Grady El and her family were dropped.

At a protest in May, Daniyal Grady El called for an outside investigation.

“Those police officers had no right to do anything that they did,” Grady El said. “The abuse, the punishment that she took at the hands of that officer and whoever else was involved with those officers should be handled in a correct manner, and not being investigated by their own people. They need to be investigated from outside.”

At that same event, Raeshonda Bullock, a friend of Sha’Tenia Grady El’s, said the incident was disturbing, noting the difficulty of discussing the issue of police brutality with her son.

“My son is at war the second he walks out that door because of the color of his skin,” Bullock said. “He’s at war. How does a 14-year-old understand that? Not even a 14-year-old, we’re having these conversations at eight, nine, 10, because these young boys that are getting killed look like him. It’s not okay. And we’re scared.”

Pearson was placed on paid administrative leave in May. The sheriff’s office requested the attorney general’s review of the matter and is also conducting an internal investigation.

On Tuesday, Nessel’s office said Pearson’s actions were “appropriate” given the situation.

“Following the review of video footage of the incident and other evidence, the Attorney General’s office determined Pearson’s use of force was justified and appropriate given the suspect’s level of resistance, and that he committed no criminal offense in his interactions with Shatina Grady,” the release said.

Grady El is now facing a variety of charges, including three counts of resisting and obstructing an officer, one count of resisting and obstructing an officer causing injury and one count of malicious destruction of police property, all of which are felonies. Daniyal Grady El has been charged with two counts of resisting and obstructing an officer.

Their arraignment is pending in Washtenaw County.

In an interview with The Daily on Tuesday, Amadeo said he intends to fight the charges.

“Any idiot could see that Dan and Sha’Tenia were the victims here,” Amadeo said. “I will have Sha’Tenia take a polygraph to show that the officer brutalized her before any reaction came from her. And we’re getting ready for war.” 

Daily News Editor Ben Rosenfeld and Daily Staff Reporter Julia Rubin can be reached at bbrosenf@umich.edu and julrub@umich.edu.