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Former Burton police officer charged with hate crime

Burton Police Department

A former Burton police detective is facing charges of assault and battery, ethnic intimidation, and misconduct in office.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said the charges stem from an incident last month during an arrest of a Black man.

The prosecutor said the February 1 incident began when the driver of another car rear-ended the unmarked police car being driven by then-Burton Police Detective Eric Freeman. The driver fled the scene and Freeman pursued him.

Leyton said Freeman confronted the suspect in a driveway in a residential neighborhood. At that point, the suspect’s car struck Freeman’s vehicle a second time.

Other Burton police officers arrived in patrol cars and the suspect was ordered out of his car, on to the ground and handcuffed.

Leyton says at that point Freeman allegedly got down on the ground, face to face with the suspect.

“Then he slapped him across the face and uttered the N-word,” said Leyton.

Leyton said the incident was caught on police body cameras.

Freeman was a 16-year veteran of the Burton police department, officials said.

Burton Police Chief Brian Ross said Freeman’s record with the department contained only a few “blemishes” on his record.

“Nothing that was of this nature,” said Ross, “Nothing ... that would make us think that he would be capable of doing something like this.”

Michigan Radio was unable to reach Freeman or his attorney for comment.

Freeman faces up to five years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, Misconduct in Office. Ethnic Intimidation carries a potential two-year sentence. The Assault and Battery charge is a misdemeanor.

Leyton credited Freeman’s fellow officers for reporting the allegations.

“This is the first case that we’ve had where an officer has actually come forward to say that there’s been an action by a fellow officer that’s inappropriate,” said Leyton.

Leyton said charges are still pending against the man Freeman was arresting.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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