DETROIT (WWJ) – A lieutenant and a patrol officer with the Detroit Police Department have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Lieutenant David “Hater” Hansberry, 34, and Officer Bryan “Bullet” Watson, 46, were indicted Wednesday on charges of robbing drug dealers and stealing drugs and money obtained in police searches.
“We are deeply troubled by these charges,” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. “While these officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty, criminal allegations of this magnitude tend to affect the erosion of public trust and tarnishing our badge.”
The indictment, unsealed on Thursday, charges Hansberry and Watson with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, multiple counts of interference with commerce by robbery and extortion, possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and drug trafficking crimes.
A third defendant, Kevlin Omar Brown, 45, was also charged with one count of interference with commerce by robbery and extortion.
According to the indictment, Hansberry and Watson arranged drug transactions with civilians, including confidential sources, so that they could rob and extort them. The duo allegedly carried out bogus traffic stops and phony arrests and then stole drugs, money and personal property from their victims.
“Sometimes they would conspire with other drug dealers to set up individuals. They would conduct a fake arrest…and then take the drugs and money from the individual who was there for the drug deal,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade McQuade told WWJ Newsradio 950.
Hansberry and Watson are charged with using their status as law enforcement officers to assist in their scheme, by driving police vehicles, activating lights on their police vehicles, wearing police-issued attire, displaying official badges and carrying firearms.
Hansberry and Watson also allegedly identified themselves as police officers to coerce their victims into complying with their demands and to encourage their victims to flee, leaving behind illegal drugs, money, and personal property.
The indictment also alleges that Hansberry and Watson failed to log into evidence money and drugs seized during searches of homes. Instead, they split the proceeds and arranged for the sale of the drugs, sharing the proceeds generated by the sales.
Hansberry and Watson, who were previously assigned to the department’s now-disbanded Narcotics Section, have been suspended since October.
The trio was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.
Could anyone else be charged in the case?
“Those are the only individuals involved in the moment that we’re aware of,” McQuade said. “But, of course, we always continue to investigate any allegations of misconduct. So, if people have information about any other officer, we are always interested in taking that information.”
Attorney Michael Harrison represents Hansberry, who’s been with the Detroit Police Department for 16 years.
“He was promoted to sergeant at 25-years-old, he was promoted to lieutenant at … 33-years-old,” said Harrison of Hansberry. “He’s devoted his entire life to protecting this community and he intents to, when this is over and he is vindicated, he intends to continue.
“Mr. Hansberry is going to have an opportunity, through this process, to establish his side of the story. We believe that when the facts come out in this case and when the evidence and the lack of credible evidence is shown to the fact-finder, Mr. Hansberry will be acquitted.”
The case was investigated by the by the FBI Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force, in collaboration with the Detroit Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“The vast majority of the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are honest and hard-working, but these defendants betrayed their oath and their fellow officers,” Chief Craig said. “We should remember that alleged criminal conduct by a few should never paint a picture that the entire police department is corrupt.”