NATIONAL NEWS

Detroit-area officer charged with federal civil rights crime after punching Black man

Jul 10, 2023, 9:45 AM

WARREN, Mich. (AP) — A suburban Detroit police officer who punched a young Black man in the face and slammed his head to the ground was charged Monday with a federal civil rights crime.

A criminal complaint against Matthew Rodriguez was unsealed in federal court ahead of an afternoon news conference by U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison.

Jaquwan Smith, 19, was being processed at the Warren police station on June 13 after he was arrested on a warrant for multiple felonies.

Video shows Rodriguez exchanging words with Smith before the officer punched him, knocked him to the floor and slammed his head on the ground.

Other Warren officers immediately intervened and reported the incident to managers.

Smith had previously been searched for weapons, indicating there was no threat to the officer’s security, a court filing said.

“The victim was not in an aggressive stance and his hands were by his side with his thumbs in his pants,” FBI agent Brent Nida said in a court filing.

Rodriguez was fired on June 23 and, charged separately with two misdemeanors in state court.

His defense attorney, Elias Muawad, had no immediate comment.

“This is not what we do. This is not who we are,” William Dwyer, the police commissioner in Warren, said during a press conference on June 20 where the video was shown.

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