‘Zero Accountability’ for Cops Who Choked and Beat an Innocent Man
On a sunny Friday afternoon in July 2014, James King, a 21-year-old college student, was walking to a summer job in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was accosted by two unshaven men wearing jeans and baseball caps who asked his name and grabbed his wallet. When King tried to flee, the men tackled him, choked him unconscious, and punched him in the face over and over again.
The men, it turned out, were cops, and for six years King has been trying to hold them accountable for their actions that day. Next Monday the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether he should get that chance. If not, police officers will have another legal trick they can use to violate people’s constitutional rights with impunity.
“Are you mugging me?” King asked before trying to get away. As he was being choked and beaten, he cried for help and asked bystanders to call the police, which several of them did.
The assailants, FBI agent Douglas Brownback and Grand Rapids detective Todd Allen, were looking for a 26-year-old man named Aaron Davison, who allegedly had stolen liquor and empty soda cans from his former employer’s apartment. They had a driver’s license photo of Davison, which looked nothing like King.
Brownback and Allen, who were members of a state-federal fugitive task force, nevertheless claimed they reasonably believed King was Davison, based on the suspect’s general description and the fact that King was in the same neighborhood where Davison had a habit of buying soda. They also said they identified themselves as police officers, which seems highly doubtful given King’s reaction.
“I thought they were trying to m
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