A Detroit police officer who was accused of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 70-year-old Daryl Vance, had the charges dismissed against him by 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King last Thursday.
"It's a very difficult situation because I do have a 70-year-old man who's now deceased," Judge King said last week. "But the question is: did he cause his own peril?"
Vance Seen Falling Backwards and Striking His Head on the Pavement After Being Punched by Officer
Vance died after being taken off life support following an altercation with officer Juwan Brown in September. Body cam footage from that day showed he was punched in the face by Brown, then fell backwards and struck his head on the pavement.
The video was played publicly for the first time last week in the judge's courtroom. Police were called to the Garden Bowl in Midtown just after 6 PM. Vance was drunk and belligerent, staff said, and refused to leave.
A witness described Vance as smelling of alcohol and unsteady on his feet. At the beginning of their interaction, officer Brown is calm, but as Vance continues to be uncooperative, the officer pulls out his taser.
'I'll Light You Up!'
At one point, officer Brown tells Vance: "I'll light you up!" as he points his taser at him. Both men exchanged expletives. As more time passes, officer Brown appears more impatient. At one point, he pushes Vance into a man walking down the street.
Seconds later, Brown puts his hand out to touch Vance and, and few a seconds, he does it again. Not long after that, officer Brown assumes a fighting stance, lunges towards Vance and delivers a punch to his face.
Vance fell backwards, laying motionless in the street after striking his head on the pavement. He would later die from his injuries.
Judge Said Vance Threw the First Punch, But Video Showed Otherwise
After watching the video, Judge King said the prosecution hadn't met its burden. "I don't know if I'm ready to concede that that's excessive, in light of the circumstances," King said. "I don't think that's excessive force."
Judge King said the officer's actions were justified because he didn't throw the first punch. Daryl Vance did. "I saw a punch thrown," King said, referring to Vance. "I know I'm not seeing things."
However, Assistant prosecutor Max Baisel argued that the video showed otherwise.
In a statement, officer Brown's attorney Steve Fishman said the judge was correct in his ruling. "Any police officer who watched that video and believes that Officer Brown did not act in self-defense obviously has problems with their vision," he said.
"When citizens call police officers to a scene, they expect them to do something, and that is exactly what officer brown did. Judge king was correct in his analysis and he will be affirmed if the prosecution decides to appeal."