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Latino youth stopped at gunpoint by the GRPD because they were walking in the street in the southwest part of Grand Rapids

March 15, 2019

For several years now we have been reporting on various incidents of the GRPD engaged in racial profiling, specifically of black and latino youth. During this same period of time we have also been reporting about the arrests and detention of dozens of immigrants by either the GRPD, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

These documented instances, along with a recent report that the GRPD disproportionately profile black and latino motorists, provides sufficient reason for communities of color to not trust the local police. The black and immigrant communities have made it clear that the live in fear of having cops pull guns on them, they live in fear of being stop, arrested and detained.

Yesterday, I received word from a friend that a family member and a friend of theirs had been stopped by the GRPD for walking in the street. A resident in the area had video taped two GRPD officers with gun pointing at the two youth, as you can see from the video below. The person filming was clearly trying to get the youth to get on the ground, knowing full well that people of color who do not cooperate with cops could get shot.

I was also able to obtain a copy of the police report, but before I get to that, I wanted to share what the family member had said to me, which was:

We have to expose the unacceptable behavior GR police are committing towards our community.

The incident happened on Monday, March 11, right around 6pm in the southwest part of Grand Rapids, on Lynch Street. Lynch Street, for those of you who are familiar with that part of town, is a short street that run between Clyde Park and Century, SW. The street is only a few city blocks long and is made up primarily of of working class latinos.

The GRPD report states that they were in this area “to proactively patrol, due to the recent increase in gang activities, including robberies and gang graffiti.” Of course, another way of looking at this is that the GRPD was patrolling a latino neighborhood, where the majority of its residents are of low income. In fact, we know that the GRPD disproportionately patrols in poor black and latino neighborhoods, since they believe that there are higher rates of street level crimes being committed in those areas.

The GRPD officer, who was in his patrol car, had noticed in his rear view mirror that these two latino youth were walking in the street. The officer circled back and attempted to stopped the youth and get them out of the road. The officer said he then got out of the car and asked them to get out of the road and while proceeding to the sidewalk, the officer said that both youth were questioning the officer as to why they were being stopped.

The officer also said that both of the youth had their hands in the front pockets of the jackets they were wearing. The officer then writes, “I order both suspects to take their hands out of their pockets, however they both continued to disobey my commands.

The officer also states that he asked them to show him their IDs, but they both said they did not have IDs, since they were minors. In the report the officer says that one of the youth was reaching behind him, and feeling threatened, the officer pulled out his gun and pointed it at the youth.

As you can see from the video, a second officer was on the scene and both of them had their guns out, pointed at the youth.

After cuffing and searching the two youth, the officer said that neither of them had weapons, but one of them was found with one gram of marijuana. The one caught with marijuana was taken to the Kent County Juvenile Detention facility, “where he was lodged on assault, batter, resist or obstruct a Police officer.

The GRPD will no doubt argue that this was just good policing. However, considering the current political climate and the level of collaboration between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the immigrant community has every right to live in fear and take this most recent example of the GRPD pointing guns at latino youth as further indication that their community is at risk of police intimidation and youth.

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