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Government

Police secrets

Attorney raises new questions about shooting report that police have suppressed.

 

Published 3/21/2001

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A brief filed in Wayne County Circuit Court on Monday alleges that Detroit Police Officer Eugene Brown may have lied in a sworn deposition about his shooting of Lamar Grable in 1996.

Attorney David Robinson, who represents Grable’s mother Arnetta Grable in her civil lawsuit against the officer, alleges in the court filings that the city continues to fight the release of an internal investigation known as the Shoulders report because it “contains credible information on how Brown shot Lamar Grable which is contrary to the version” provided by Brown.

Attorneys representing Brown and the city did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday.

Robinson based the allegation on information provided to him by a “highly reliable” source familiar with the Shoulders report, according to the court document. Robinson did not disclose the name of his source, either in the court filing or in an interview with the Metro Times.

According to Robinson, Deputy Chief Walter Shoulders both conducted his own physical investigation and relied on the opinion of a “nationally known ballistics expert” to reach his conclusion.

If his source is accurate, contends Robinson, it is possible that the ballistics evidence will show that Grable posed no threat when Brown continued to shoot him as he lay on the ground.

Brown has testified that he shot Grable a total of eight times in what the officer says was a gun battle with the 20-year-old man. Brown also testified Grable continued to fire even after he was felled by Brown’s first four shots.

Robinson contends that Grable never fired at Brown.

The brief filed by Robinson was a renewed attempt to gain access to the Shoulders report.

Last year, following a public outcry after local media shed a spotlight on the number of civilians being shot, Detroit Police Chief Benny Napoleon ordered that the department reinvestigate Brown. During his seven-year career, the officer has shot nine people, three of them fatally. Shoulders, along with Cmdrs. Cara Best and Frasier Shaw were appointed to re-examine Brown’s three fatal shootings and one nonfatal incident.

Their report, which was allegedly critical of Brown, was never made public. A subsequent investigation by other police officials cleared Brown of any wrongdoing. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, after reviewing evidence provided by the Police Department for a second time, determined there was no basis to bring criminal charges against Brown.

However, the prosecutor’s office was never provided with a copy of the Shoulders report.

Along with keeping the report from the public and prosecutors, the city has fought to keep it out of the hands of Robinson and the judge presiding over the civil suit — even though the judge ruled in November that it must be produced.

Robinson, in his interview with Metro Times, said the information received from his confidential source may explain why the city continues to fight disclosure of the report.

Calling his source “highly reliable,” Robinson wrote that the forensic evidence “led to ‘frank criticisms’ of Eugene Brown’s conduct in this case and may even label the shooting of Mr. Grable as unjustified.”

If so, argued Robinson, the shooting was “tantamount” to a criminal act.

“Thus,” argued Robinson, “no matter how strenuously counsel for the City of Detroit desires to advocate for his client, he is strictly precluded from protecting a … client’s criminal acts.”

It is Robinson’s contention that the city is continuing to deny the court access to information that legally must be disclosed.

Arnetta Grable is so determined to get the report that she fired her previous two attorneys because, she says, they tried to force her to settle the case without going to trial.

When she will be able to get her day is not known. The case had been scheduled to go to trial on March 26. But Brown’s attorney also filed a motion earlier this month seeking a postponement from Judge Isidore B. Torres. In a brief filed with the court, he argued that as part of a Justice Department review of shootings by Detroit police, Brown is already being investigated, and that the officer has been advised to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights protecting him from self-incrimination. Doing so could prejudice jurors in his civil trial, the attorney argued.

No new trial date has been set.

The long delay continues to wear at Arnetta Grable, who has been instrumental in the campaign to bring allegations of police abuse to the public’s attention.

“You keep waiting and waiting and it eats away at you,” says Grable. “We have no closure. … It’s like a flag they are waving in our face for daring to challenge the injustice they did our family.”

Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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