(CNN) – A police department in Michigan is being sued after an officer shot a long-range canister into a protester’s face.
That officer was suspended for two days.
Police say the incident was a mistake, but the injured man’s attorney is not buying it.
“We never want these types of incidents to happen,” said Chief Eric Payne of the Grand Rapids Police Department.
Payne spoke about the results of their internal investigation Tuesday into an incident that happened May 30th where a man was hit in the face with a launched canister after the peaceful protests downtown turned into a riot.
“Fires were being set, properties were being vandalized. Officers were being threatened, assaulted by bricks, bottles and other dangerous items,” said Payne.
Just a block from the department, at Fulton and Sheldon, Sean Hart was told to leave the area by officers who then pointed a 40 mm launcher in his direction.
Hart left, but would return moments later, saying he was upset at the way police had just treated him. and then….
First he gets a face full of pepper spray and then the officer who fired the canister, Phillip Reinink, has already been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Kent County Prosecutor.
On Tuesday it was announced that he had been suspended for two days without pay following GRPD internal investigation.
“Officer Reineke recognize immediately following his actions that he had made a mistake, a mistake we all regret under the pressure caused by the hostile environment, unruly crowds and the type of chaos or officers that no none of our officers in our department had ever seen,” said Payne.
The mistake Chief Payne is referring to? He says Reinink had accidentally loaded a spede-heat canister into his launcher that night.
“This is a long range projectile. The objective of this projectile is to be launched from a place of distance. The range is 125 to 150 yards, typically from behind the line into a crowd,” said Ofc. Joe Garrett of the Grand Rapids Police Department Special Response Team.
And what Officer Reinink meant to load?
“The ammunition that he thought he had was a muzzle blast yes round. As you can see they’re very close in appearance. The muzzle blast round is the optimal factor range for that is about 10 feet. There’s actually no projectile that comes out of this round here,” said Garrett.
But Attorney Ven Johnson, whose firm is now representing Hart in a soon-to-be-filed lawsuit, says the situation goes far beyond a simple mistake made in the heat of the moment.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of Grand Rapids, in West Michigan? Are you going to buy this because we all know it’s complete and utter lie. Who do you think loaded the gun? It’s his job to know whether you got a bullet in there or a water bottle,” said Johnson.
Johnson says the lawsuit will seek to cover some of the medical and economic damages hart suffered after being hit.
“When they suspend an officer, quote without pay, that tells you that they have found that he or she in this case, it happens to be he violated their own policies and procedures. They’re lucky they didn’t incinerate him or somebody else nearby him. He was not advancing on them. He was not assaulting them. He wasn’t touching them,” said Johnson.
The police department says they have made changes to their use of force policy but the chief would not elaborate Tuesday. Instead the department will announce those changes on Aug. 11.
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