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Federal lawsuit alleges Grand Rapids police officer beat up black teen

Grand Rapids police officer directing traffic.
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Attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Grand Rapids and three city police officers over a 2014 incident that left an unarmed teenage boy in the hospital.

In the federal complaint filed this month, attorneys for a now 17-year old say Grand Rapids police were looking for a reported man with a gun the night of the incident, in June 2014. The officers tried to talk to a group of teenage boys walking several blocks away. Some fled the police.

“As young African American men, they felt very much like it was only a matter of when the police would beat them up, and not if that would happen,” Keeley Heath, an attorney for the then 15 year old boy, identified only by his initials, D.B., said.

Heath says when an officer caught up to her client, he beat the teen with his fists and flashlight. The teen was unarmed.

“For an officer to feel that that was an appropriate use of force, I think that it’s apparent that more training is needed,” she said.

Heath says the teen was never convicted of a crime.

Steve Guitar, a spokesman for the city of Grand Rapids says the city is reviewing the allegations.

“Until that review is complete, it would be premature to comment on this pending lawsuit,” he said in an email Monday.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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