City police sued in federal court over excessive force claim

Ravi Gurumurthy, Donald Cubitt and Bill Barnett hold a press conference on July 15, 2020 about Cubbitt\'s family\'s allegations against Cadillac police. Barnett and Gurumurthy represent the family in other matters; the family is suing in federal court with a different attorney.

CADILLAC – A Cadillac family is suing the city police department, claiming police used excessive force against a teenager.

In a March 30 incident caught on body camera, police apparently tackled a teen who did not stop when officers ordered him to (the teen appeared to be wearing in-ear headphones). The tackle appeared to injure the teen, who began screaming after he hit the ground.

A portion of the body camera video became public this summer.

In a subsequent news conference, Donald Cubitt, the boy's father, told reporters he wanted the officers involved held accountable.

Now the family has filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Richard Cummins, an associate with the Neumann Law Group in Traverse City, is representing the family.

He told the Cadillac News that, although the federal courts were closed for Veteran's Day, he submitted the lawsuit electronically that morning.

The Cadillac News was able to view the documents shortly thereafter.

The lawsuit alleges that police violated the teenager's fourth amendment (search and seizure) 14th amendment (equal protection and due process) constitutional rights.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that police officers dislocated the teenager's hip.

"The force of the blow dislocated Plaintiff Minor’s right hip and caused a chip or avulsion fracture of his anterior femoral head. Plaintiff Minor, 16 years of age, was completely surprised when he was hit by two much larger male officers simultaneously, and he cried, screamed and writhed in pain from his injury and shock, as he was held handcuffed on the ground while it snowed," the lawsuit states.

Medical records obtained through a FOIA of the Wexford County Prosecutor's Office show that the bone chip was called "equivocal" in a CT report.

The source of the injury has been disputed.

Extended body camera footage reviewed by the Cadillac News shows the teen's father asking, upon arriving on the scene, whether the teen had re-injured a "bad" leg; it wasn't clear from the response which leg he was referring to.

After video of the March 30 incident was put on social media, Michigan State Police began investigating whether Cadillac Police committed a crime, at the family and some of their attorneys' urging.

That investigation was still ongoing at last check.

MSP said the detective assigned to the case was waiting for medical records and needs to do more interviews.

Cummins, the family's lawyer, said he respects the police. Speaking for himself and not his clients, Cummins said he is not asking for the Cadillac officers involved to be fired.

But he does want police to acknowledge the use of excessive force and apologize to the family.

"I do believe that they should be held accountable," Cummins said. "I do believe that there should be some disciplinary action taken by the Cadillac Police Department and that should be indicated in their personnel file."

The family is also seeking damages.

While court documents show they are asking for $75,000 each for several claims, that is merely statutory language "necessary to be stated in every Federal Court Complaint to satisfy jurisdiction in Federal Court."

Cubitt, the boy's father, had previously hinted that the family might sue the City of Cadillac Police Department.

Cummins said he did not rush to file the suit because he prefers to thoroughly investigate.

Cadillac City Attorney Mike Homier said he could not comment on the lawsuit.

City council went into closed session during the Nov. 16 meeting to discuss the lawsuit and other matters.

Cadillac News