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GRPD shoots and kills 26 year old Black man: Deconstructing the PR Spin, also known as a Press Conference

April 5, 2022

On Monday, the 54th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a GRPD cop shot and killed a 26 year old Black man in the southeast part of Grand Rapids.

The news coverage was as expected, relying primarily on what the GRPD was saying, with the Police Chief Winstrom saying that the man who was shot and killed exited his car, which was followed by  a “lengthy struggle” happened between the man and officer. In the Press Conference held later in the day, Winstrom said that the “struggle” last 90 seconds – 2 minutes, hardly making it lengthy.

The Police Chief, the Mayor, the City Manager, the head of the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability and another police officer then held a Press Conference at 4:30pm.

The Press Conference began with comments from several City officials, each expressing their thoughts and prayers for the families of the victim and the officer. Chief Winstrom then spoke a bit more about “the process” they are using to determine the cause of the shooting. Here are a few points of what we know:

1. Video will be released next week, despite the fact that the body cam fell off/was knocked off. However, there may be footage from the police cruiser, Ring cameras in the neighborhood and some cell phone footage. 

2. The Michigan State Police are doing an investigate before any video can be released. Therefore, police and investigating police.

3. Chief Winstrom said that it is not known whether the Black man who was shot and killed was armed.

4. The GRPD has been in contact with local leaders in the community, although no names were given. When the City said they spoke with local leaders, this often means people who are more “reasonable” and will cooperate with the GRPD when called upon to do so.

5. Chief Winstrom said that there was use of deadly force, which police are entitled to use.

Point 5 in many ways is the most important, since the law is always on the side of cops. Here is what the law in Michigan says about use of force:


  1. Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, a law enforcement officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. The standard that courts will use to examine whether the use of force is constitutional was first set forth in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), and expanded by subsequent court cases. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable law enforcement officer on the scene at the moment the force was used, rather than with 20/20 vision of hindsight. The reasonableness must account for the fact that law enforcement officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. 
  2. Reasonableness will be determined by balancing the nature and quality of the intrusions with the countervailing governmental interests. The question is whether the law enforcement officer’s actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer. Objective factors will determine the reasonableness of force including, but not limited to, the severity of the crime, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the law enforcement officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. 
  3. Enforcement members shall only use force which is objectively reasonable under the totality of the facts and circumstances to overcome a subject’s resistance, to make an arrest, or maintain proper custody of a prisoner, when a resisting subject de-escalates his/her resistance, the enforcement member shall also de-escalate the amount of force used proportionately

The City’s Press Conference did include a brief Q & A portion, but most of the responses from Chief Winstrom were no responses, since they didn’t have enough information to make any clear determinations until after the Michigan State Police Complete their investigation and all of the video is released.

In effect, the Press Conference was designed to primarily divert attention away from the police shooting of a Black man, both through the rhetoric they used and the fact that they are holding the facts close to their chest until the investigation is complete and the video is released, allowing them time to devise a Public Relations/communications plan.

We have seen how this plays out previously, where the cop is exonerated, the public is admonished to cooperate with the GRPD when stopped and such incidents should never suggest that the GRPD can be defunded.

Fortunately, there are lots of people who aren’t buying it. In fact, there is a march planned for this Saturday, April 9 beginning at 3pm in the southeast part of the city, with the event named, STOP KILLING US.

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