Yesterday, the Board of Police Commissioners voted on whether to revoke pay from a suspended officer accused of escalating an encounter with 70 year-old Detroit resident Daryl Vance. The officer punched Vance, who fell, hit his head and later died from his injuries.

The officer, Jawan Brown, was suspended with pay the day after the incident. During the meeting, Detroit Police Department (DPD) Commander Michael McGinnis spoke on behalf of Chief James White. He asked the board to change the status of Brown’s leave to one without pay but with medical benefits.

Security camera footage looks down on a sidewalk and street, with a building’s front door on the right side of the frame. A police officer is standing outside the door of the building under an awning facing an older Black man standing on the sidewalk with his back toward the street. There are three people, including a child wearing a red football jersey and helmet, in the lower-right hand corner of the frame, watching the men.
Security camera footage shows the beginning of an encounter between police officer Jawan Brown and Detroit resident Daryl Vance, who later died after being punched by Brown and falling down. Police commissioners stopped the video after learning Vance’s family had not yet seen it. Image credit: Screenshot from Detroit Board of Police Commissioners meeting by Meghan Rutigliano

Brown responded to a call about an individual refusing to leave The Garden Bowl in Midtown on the evening of Sept. 1. Brown was working alone at the time. Management at The Garden Bowl said Vance was refusing to leave, arguing with security and might have had a firearm. 

McGinnis said that when Brown arrived, instead of de-escalating the situation, he “escalated the situation, which resulted in an unnecessary use of force, which then rendered the victim in this incident … unconscious.” McGinnis said, “That individual remained unconscious for several weeks until he expired on September 21st.”

The commissioners began to review video footage of the incident during the meeting, which showed Vance had already left The Garden Bowl by the time Brown hit him. McGinnis asked them to stop the video and said it should only be shown in closed session as Vance’s family had not yet seen it. He did tell commissioners that, before striking Vance, Officer Brown said he would “break your f—— jaw. I can break your f—— jaw, knock you the f— out,” and then taunted him.

A lawyer for Brown said that McGinnis “cherry-picked” Brown’s words. He said that while the event was a tragedy, Chief White had earlier said Brown was “responding in kind” to aggression by Vance. 

The commissioners did not go into closed session and did not watch the video. They voted 8-2 in favor of revising the terms of Brown’s suspension to include medical benefits but no pay. Commissioners Linda Bernard and Ricardo Moore voted “no.” 

The incident is being investigated by the Michigan State Police. The Wayne County Prosecutor is reviewing the case to see if criminal charges are warranted. 

Commissioners also agreed to hire, on a 90-day trial basis, lawyer Stephani LaBelle to represent the board. 

Documenters Meghan Rutigliano and William Verhoef contributed to this reporting.

Sarah (she/her) believes the best local reporting is a service, responds directly to community needs and reduces harm. Her favorite place in Detroit is her backyard on a summer evening.